ASU engineering students work toward Georgia Tech degrees in new program

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 Charlie Corley is a junior at Augusta State University, but when he completes his studies, his diploma will have Georgia Institute of Technology printed on it.

Dr. Brent Gutierrez (left) oversees the new pre-engineering program at Augusta State.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Dr. Brent Gutierrez (left) oversees the new pre-engineering program at Augusta State.

"I think it's huge," he said of being able to get a Georgia Tech diploma while attending school outside Tech's Atlanta campus. "They are rated as one of the top schools in the country."

The opportunity is possible through an engineering course that started at Augusta State last month. The pre-engineering program offers Augusta State students preparatory work that will lead them to transfer to Georgia Tech-Savannah for their two final years. Those completing the program receive a bachelor's degree in engineering from Georgia Tech.

Dr. Brent Gutierrez, an instructor in ASU's Department of Chemistry and Physics, is overseeing the course. He said the idea started a few years ago, when Georgia Tech was seeing an influx of potential students and wanted to grow its satellite locations as a way to answer the demand.

Gutierrez said it's proving to be a great opportunity for Augusta students to stay close to home for their initial engineering education.

"To be able to offer an engineering degree in the CSRA is a milestone for our university," Gutierrez said in a release announcing the program.

The pre-engineering course focuses on the study of statics -- the ability to objectively evaluate and analyze nonmoving structures. In Gutierrez's class Thursday, students watched as he demonstrated how a weighted load affected a scaled-down model of a bridge. He talked about the forces pushing against each of the bridge's beams and how students would be designing similar prototypes.

Augusta State officials have said there is a growing need for engineers nationally, and interest in the field has been growing.

"We already have a number of students in the program, and we are expecting more to enter each semester," Dr. J. Andrew Hauger, the chairman of ASU's Department of Chemistry and Physics, said in a release. "We expect our program to not only benefit the students who continue in Savannah but also our other students who may take the introductory engineering courses not previously available on our campus."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineering employment is expected to grow by 11 percent through 2018, with the greatest demand in biomedical engineering.

At A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School, engineering teacher and Assistant Principal Aleks Holiday said she has seen the number of students focused on engineering courses double in four years.

"There is a critical need for engineers. We need them," she said.

Locally, that need is correlated with a new reactor project scheduled for Plant Vogtle. The reactors are expected to go online in 2016 and 2017. A.R. Johnson is looking to feed students to a new nuclear engineering associate degree program at Augusta Technical College.

With the new program at Augusta State, Holiday said her students have another opportunity. She said that in the past Augusta lost some of its best students because there weren't any engineering options locally.

"That (the new ASU program) will increase their student enrollment, if we could feed right into them," she said.

Upcoming engineering event

The Augusta alumni chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers will hold its 15th annual technical forum for fourth- through 12th-graders from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 27 at Fort Discovery. Students will participate in hands-on workshops with topics on electrical circuits, robotics, video gaming and the science of paper. To register, call (706) 854-7201 or e-mail nsbetechforum@gmail.com. The free event is limited to 300 students.

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