Plastics still a growing field

Mar 21, 2008

Polymer and plastics engineering is a high growth industry. Kettering's new academic specialty helps prepare students for a dynamic career.

"I’ve got one word for you . . . Plastics.”  That line from the popular movie “The Graduate” is as relevant today as it was in 1967. And at Kettering University it is doubly relevant.

As home to one of the original student chapters of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), Kettering has continued to be committed to Plastics Engineering. Kettering’s Plastic Product Design Specialty is unique in the country. Specialty students take courses in polymer processing, mechanical properties of polymers and the capstone which utilizes Moldflow software.

In recent years the specialty has been redesigned to involve more faculty and the curriculum has been with the help of Kettering’s Polymers Industrial Advisory Board.

The Polymers Board, made up of representatives from industry, has declared plastic product design an up-and-coming field of study with opportunity for leadership in a dynamic and growing industry.

Polymer Board members have consistently stated that polymer and plastics engineering is a business niche thatKettering can fill, since there are few polymer-oriented engineering programs in the country, according to Dr. Jacqueline El-Sayed, professor of Mechanical Engineering, director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and faculty advisor to the student chapter of SPE. “The business is growing and will only continue to do so,” she added.

To help Kettering better prepare students, Dr. Dale Gerard, senior manager of Materials Engineering for General Motors, has agreed to partner with El-Sayed on a MECH 580-Mechanical Properties of Polymers class, by providing the class with real industry projects to develop plastic parts for GM.

These projects will be the central theme of the class, according to El-Sayed. Gerard will attend the kick-off of the projects at Kettering, and his team will work with El-Sayed to decide which projects will be the best fit.

“In addition, Dr. Gereard and his team will provide my class with technical information related to the projects and the class will visit the GM materials lab during the term,” El-Sayed said. “Having such direct real-world projects in the classroom is just the type of experiential learning that Ketteringis best known for. I hope that this work will lead to future partnerships and research in this area,” she added.

Students recognize the potential of program, and the number of student in enrolled and participating in the SPE student chapter has grown. Two years ago, only seven students applied for scholarships available through the national SPE. In 2008, 13 students from Kettering applied, and 11 received scholarships. “SPE has been very supportive of our students,” said El-Sayed.

“Particularly James Keeler, of A Schulman Co. and president-elect of the Detroit chapter of SPE,” she added, “he has been tireless in his efforts to advocate for Kettering and our students.” Keeler is also a  member of the Kettering Polymers Advisory Board.

This year’s scholarship recipients are:
Samantha Best, of Clayton, NC
Armando Gomez, of Mount Prospect, IL
Jessica Hildreth, of Dorr, MI
Genevieve Johnson, of Katy, TX
Natalie Kulasa, of Lansing, MI
Tyler Last, of Ada, MI
Artwain Sanders, of Detroit, MI
Christian Thomas, of East Sandwich, MA
Nicole Van Dongen, of Columbiaville, MI
Starla Walters, of Decatur, TX
LaKithia Williams, of Westland, MI

In addition to El-Sayed, a number of Kettering faculty are involved in the polymers program at Kettering. They are: Dr. Laura Sullivan, professor of Mechanical Engineerng; Dr. Maciej Zgorzelski, professor of Mechanical Engineering; and Dr. Yaomin Dong, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering. There is also a team of multi-disciplinary faculty members that have agreed to collaborate on research in this area. 

For more information about Kettering’s Plastic Product Design Specialty, visit the program web page.

Written by Dawn Hibbard