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Awards / Honors

Professor honored for improving engineering education

January 8, 2014

Allan Krkpatrick's efforts to provide mechanical engineering students with more hands-on, practical experience are being recognized by a national organization.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers recently awarded CSU's Allan Kirkpatrick and three others its Ben C. Sparks Medal for their leadership in revamping undergraduate mechanical engineering education as part of the organization’s Vision 2030 project.

The project has “sparked a move toward a more flexible, creative, industry-practice-oriented mechanical engineering,” according to the society.

Kirkpatrick has spoken at universities around the United States and globe about Vision 2030, including schools in China, Cuba and Turkey.

“A lot of mechanical engineering programs are now adopting the Vision 2030 recommendations and are emphasizing innovation, leadership, teamwork and entrepreneurship,” he said.

Building on previous efforts

The ASME project wasn’t the first time Kirkpatrick has overhauled engineering education.

He embarked on a similar mission in the early 2000’s when he was head of CSU’s mechanical engineering department.  At the time, the only practical course CSU offered mechanical engineering students was senior design during their final year of school.

“Our industry advisory panel thought that was wrong and told us students needed more practical and design experience and we listened,” Kirkpatrick said.

Over the next few years, Kirkpatrick and his colleagues revamped their curriculum to include design courses throughout the curriculum. The students, he said, are still taught theory but the focus has shifted to designing, building and testing, and applying what they have learned.

“Our students are now as internationally competitive as we can make them,” he said. “They take design courses every semester.”

Kirkpatrick’s experience is one of the reasons he was selected to participate in the Vision 2030 project, which concluded with a report and proposed actions for educators, industry and government.  The committee’s first recommendation was to offer “richer practice-based experience for students.

“Allan has really been a pioneer in this area,” said Sue James, who now leads CSU’s mechanical engineering department. “He recognized the need early for students to have more practical experience during their undergraduate education, and as a result we are graduating some of the best trained mechanical engineers in the country. This is evidenced by their high demand in the job market.”