Mechanical engineering major prepares students for future

Sidney Blanford

The driverless car, artificial limb development and the energy industry all have at least one thing in common: they are made possible by the work of mechanical engineers.

Joel Lenoir, professor of engineering, has been working in mechanical engineering education for 23 years and said he feels that right now is a very exciting time for the mechanical engineering major.

“(The mechanical engineering major) is a broad starting point,” Lenoir said. “Being a broad professional degree you are setting yourself up for a lot of different career paths.”

Lenoir said students in the program are currently going on to do a variety of work after their undergraduate studies, ranging from teachers to pharmacists to getting their MBAs.

After a freshman engineering course, Richmond senior Taylor Weatherford realized his placement in the agriculture major wasn’t his best fit.

“I took a freshman engineering course and just realized it played to a lot of my strengths,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford is currently the president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

The senior said that the program here stands out from other schools, because experiences do not come straight from co-ops and internships. He said the professors are the ones who give students a lot of the experience.

“This is not just theory,” Lenoir said. “Theory is not replaced, but we do place a high importance on interaction.”

“WKU is strong in application. We have a project based curriculum,” Weatherford said. “You learn of lot of theory, but then you also get to apply that theory to design.”

Metcalfe senior Elizabeth Parsons is not only the vice president of ASME, but is also the only mechanical engineering major in her graduating class.

“We have a design project every year where we have to work with real companies,” Parsons said.

She also said larger schools do not have the time, so many of their students don’t get a hands-on project until their senior year.

The mechanical engineering major is one that requires discipline and hard work and needn’t be accompanied by a minor or second major.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Weatherford said. “Earlier on, I found myself asking if I wanted to do all the work.”

Lenoir said that students who go through this program come out with not only a broad mechanical engineer education, but are also instilled with critical teamwork and communication skills.

“Teamwork and communication is key,” Lenoir said. “We like the student athletes a lot, because they know how to work as a team and they know time management which is critical for this major.”

Weatherford and Parsons agree this a major that takes dedication, but with the faculty aid and broad skill set learned it is a major that reaps many benefits.

“Broad is better,” Lenoir said.