Going out with a bang

Apr 18, 2008

Two Industrial Engineering students are wrapping up their academic careers at Kettering earning a Six Sigma Fundamentals certificate, launching an academic collaborative and presenting their research at the 2008 American Society of Engineering Education conference in June.

Andrew Thornton, of Enon, Ohio, and Kyle Shipp, of Flint, Mich., certainly know how to make a grand exit. The two Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME) students are the first undergraduate students at Kettering University to earn a Six Sigma Fundamentals certificate from the Industrial Engineering program prior to graduation and they will present their research paper about their multidisciplinary polymer processing experience with a Mechanical Engineering (ME) course at the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) National Conference in Pittsburgh June 22 through 25.

“It is a little daunting to present at professional conference,” said Shipp. “It is unusual for undergraduate students to present at a professional-level national conference,” said Dr. Tony Lin, professor of Industrial Engineering, joking “this is not a student-oriented conference. I have to hold their hands."

The paper, “A Multidisciplinary Environment for Cooperative Learning Using Design Of Experiment and Polymer Processing,” is a course assessment for multidisciplinary approach integrating IME advance quality assurance and ME polymer processing in a common project. “We got to apply the practical side of Industrial Engineering theory we normally work with in class,” said Thornton, “and we had an opportunity to work with the machines on a deeper level with the polymers class which was made up mostly of ME students.”

“As IE’s (Industrial Engineers) we learned the practical application of tools we learn about in the classroom,” said Shipp, “and the ME students benefited from learning about things from the IME perspective, skills they don’t normally get in their field of study,” he added, “we learned from each other.”

During summer term in 2007,Thorntonwas taking a directed study course from Lin (IME-573). With the cooperation of Dr. Laura Sullivan, professor of Mechanical Engineering,Thornton worked with Mechanical Engineering students on the project using Six Sigma quality tools to investigate the injection molding process. Shipp did a follow-up study on Thornton’s project.

Both earned a Six Sigma Fundamentals certificate as IE majors with quality assurance concentrations. Six Sigma is viewed as a strategic methodology in continuous system (process) improvement for any organization.

The process of writing a technical paper explaining their project has taken their engineering education beyond that of the usual undergraduate.  “We knew the technical stuff related to engineering, but for the paper we had to learn how academic assessment works,” said Shipp. With an IME concentration in Quality Assurance, both Shipp and Thornton were familiar with assessment, but “they had to learn how Kettering’s academic programs are accredited and how the IME program outcomes are assessed,” said Lin.

This is really a lot of work for their experience level,” Lin added, “it is also quite an experience to have their first technical paper reviewed by professionals.”

 “It was interesting to see more of what academics do in the assessment process,” said Shipp, “I didn’t realize they go through all that.” The two had to write their final paper specifically for the conference which is focused on engineering education. “We originally sent our abstract with information about the class and our experience, the American Society of Engineering Education paper reviewers sent it back saying they wanted to see how it was evaluated and the assessment of the pertinent program outcomes,” said Shipp.

What they found, aside from what they learned from the application of advanced quality assurance knowledge and skills to polymer processing, was that engineering students need real, practical learning environments where they can uncover and solve problems together.

In their paper, Shipp and Thornton determined that class group work is valuable preparation for future problem solving in team settings in the work place where team dynamics are crucial to resolving problems.

The multidisciplinary approach used to integrate the IME and ME classes is part of an integrated engineering curriculum was instituted by Lin, Dr. Lucy King, professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, and Dr. Jacqueline El-Sayed, professor of Mechanical Engineering. This approach is designed to promote vertical and horizontal integration of engineering courses at the university. Read more about the “Vertical and Horizontal Integration of Manufacturing courses in Engineering” curricula.

Accepted in its final form for presentation at the conference, Shipp and Thornton will spend the last week in June explaining their work and then go their separate ways; Thornton to his co-op work term before his last academic term and Shipp to his second tour of duty in Iraq as an Army Reservist beginning in July.

“I took a little vacation from the military to go to school,” Shipp explained. He is not letting military duty interrupt his education plans however. Enrolled in the Kettering bachelor of science/master of science dual degree program in Industrial Engineering, Shipp plans to take master’s level classes through the distance learning program at the University. “I may be able to take classes on line while in Iraq,” he said.

Both will take with them a greater understanding of the multidisciplinary approach to problem solving and a greater appreciation of the “other side” of academia. “I toyed with the idea of pursuing a Ph.D.,” said Thornton, “but I now realize it’s a lot of work,” he said, referring to working in higher education. He currently has an offer of full-time employment from his co-op employer.

Written by Dawn Hibbard