The College of Engineering and Mines

Hey! Have you ever thought of being an engineer? What do engineers do? Is it hard to become an engineer? Well than you are in the right place. I have been at UAF for four years now and am about to graduate with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. Since I've been here I have learned about the many different opportunities that the College of Engineering and Mines (CEM) has to offer.

Degrees offered:
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mining Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Geological Engineering
  • Petroleum Engineering

The College of Engineering and Mines is housed in the Duckering Building. For many years UAF has sought to expand its engineering program and in 2012 work had begun on expansion to Duckering. This new expansion would join Duckering and Bunnel, with the connecting building containing new labs and work spaces. What CEM lacked was space in order to house a vast range of student projects. This new expansion would include numerous labs and a central area.

What makes UAF a good place to study engineering? Well the main reason is that it has very good faculty to student ratio, meaning that the classes are smaller. Most of my class are from 40 to 20 students, which is not bad compared to other colleges where classes are commonly in the hundreds.
The College of Engineering Mines also has plenty of student organizations in order to get involved with outreach and projects. The one I am most closely affiliated with is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. CEM is also involved with many engineering competitions such as Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge. Just this semester I became the lead student for CEM's Collegiate Wind Competition team, Arctic Winds.

Arctic Winds in front of the new Engineering Building

These competitions allow us to work with real engineering problems and to design solutions. The Collegiate Wind Competition challenges students to design and build a small wind turbine for off-grid applications. In addition to building the turbine we also have to make a business plan and deployment strategy for fielding the turbine. 


Designing the turbine is also my senior design project, which is supposed to show off all the cool stuff we learned in our engineering classes. It's very different going from all the theory in the textbooks to actually applying them to real world problems. Its fun and gives the team members a chance to gain valuable experience. 

"Just doin' some science here."

This added experience really gives us an edge compared to other students when trying to get jobs. When employers look at your resume, they almost immediately look for projects to see what experience, if any, you have. 

So what do engineers do? Well, we take lots of math classes and classes that use math. These might be classes like fluid mechanics, where we look at how things such as water behaves in pipes. Or thermodynamics, where we learn why we feel colder in Washington at 20 C than we do in Fairbanks at -10 C. After we take classes like those we can then apply the principles to "engineer" solutions. 

My particular job for Arctic Winds is to help design a control and power system. Or in other words make sure that we can put out steady power to charge, lets say your cellphone. I use what I have learned in classes like elements of electrical engineering and digital electronics to look at current solutions to then apply them to what we need. 

"Yup, total get this."

In all its a lot of fun and the challenge makes it worth it. UAF has many different competitions that students can jump onto to gain experience. If you're looking at going to UAF, just drop by the Duckering Building and see whats going on! Most student organizations are happy to show off what they are working on and there are posters along the building hallways that show what students have done in the past. 

Hope you enjoyed the long post!


1 comment

Teal Rogers said...

Thanks for sharing Clay! What a great project to be involved with. Arctic engineering requires some innovative thinking- glad to see a stellar Student Ambassador leading the way.

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