New degree opportunity

Crusader football left and right guards Blake Heller and Ryan Krause are all business when they set foot on the gridiron. But in their nearly empty thermodynamics classroom—they are the only students—the two are all engineering.

When both students began to study engineering, they hoped it would lead to successful placement in an engineering program at a larger university. Because UMHB did not offer an engineering degree, they trusted that chair of the computer science department Dr. Bill Tanner’s pilot program in pre-engineering would qualify them to transfer to a larger school.

They could still play football and work toward their educational goal. When they started, knowing they could transfer to a full engineering program was less than a sure thing. But UMHB is often called a faith-based university.

“You always had that question in the back of your mind,” Heller said.  “What if it doesn’t work out? But I had a feeling we’d get it done.”

A model, built in the newly added pre-engineering program. Photo by Evan Duncan

A model, built in the newly added pre-engineering program. Photo by Evan Duncan

Thanks to the work of Tanner, “getting it done” is exactly what happened last summer when the school and Baylor University formed an agreement to officially create the UMHB engineering degree.
“Any course taken here counts towards the same courses at Baylor. It assures students that every one of those classes will transfer,” Tanner said.

“They do 117 credit hours here and then they transfer to Baylor,” he said. “After completing 12 hours at Baylor, they will receive a bachelor of engineering science degree from UMHB and then after completing 60-70 hours from Baylor they will be receive a bachelor’s degree in a specific engineering field from Baylor.”

The engineering field is growing rapidly and most engineer-producing universities are at maximum capacity.
These schools require prospective engineers to apply to the engineering program in their junior year. Tanner said many students see the tough competition to enter engineering school without ever experiencing hands-on work and abandon the field entirely.

“Certainly the number of engineers that the nation needs are not being realized. We are somewhere behind 177,000 jobs in the United States,” he said. “We have no one to fill them.  Our emphasis was to create more opportunity for engineers to find out about the field  early and pursue a four- year degree in engineering.”
Tanner hopes his 27‑student program can help.

As freshmen, students construct model bridges designed to withstand thousands of pounds. In Waco, they will compete against Baylor students. The goal is to get them to experience the exciting aspects of engineering before they tackle difficult math and science courses required to advance into their final classes.

The freshman class entering the program can be confident thanks to the deal. They also can enjoy the benefits of a small school.

Freshman engineering major Brandon Heller chose to pursue his degree in Belton for many reasons. Not the least of which his hometown is only miles away in Salado and his big brother Blake’s success with the program.

“It’s a small school and there is going to be small classes. The way this engineering program works you get to take intro classes with 12-15 people in the classes,” he said. “Professors can teach hands on because there aren’t many students before you go off to the bigger college and get your final degree.”

Brandon Heller has good reason to be optimistic.

“They have very good chances to be accepted,” Tanner said. “We did this in a careful way.”

Author: Evan Duncan

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