Written by Tyler Pangerl
Nearly two years ago I was asked by Professor George Halow if The University of Michigan’s Design, Build, Fly team would be willing to participate in a pilot program course called Systems Engineering Leadership. The course was designed to infuse systems engineering practices as well as business leadership tools and processes into existing student engineering project teams. It wasn’t hard to say yes to such an intriguing offer. Most courses in college challenge you to become a better student. This course challenged my teammates and I to become better engineers. Our professors and IA’s gave us homework assignments, but ultimately the remote control aircraft we were designing and building for the AIAA Design, Build, Fly competition became the benchmark for determining whether or not we truly grasped what we were being taught. There was no greater feeling of satisfaction than when our plane leapt skyward on it’s maiden flight — also a solid indicator of the team’s hard work and dedication. A key contributor to the success of the team was the high level of industry collaboration that we were given access to. Executives and engineers from industry took time out of their busy schedules to teach us during our classes, participate as judges in design reviews, and offered their technical support when we would get stumped and were unsure of how to proceed. The resultant environment that this course created for our team accelerated our ability to apply knowledge, solve problems, and better prepare the next generation of team members to fill leadership roles. This past week I had the amazing privilege of participating as a panelist at the World Engineering Education Forum with George Halow, Morgan Serra, Emily O’Connell, Jennifer Bradford, and other representatives from The University of Michigan and Siemens. Together we spoke to how in a world where the future of work is evolving at an ever increasing pace, industry-academia partnerships such as the one I experienced are crucial to educating the upcoming generation of engineers. Experiences such as the one I had are not conventional and cannot be found by studying a text book. This is the type of learning that is only possible through close mentorship and collaboration between students, their instructors, and our industry leaders. Without a doubt these experiences have mad me a better thinker, problem solver, and engineer. I am thrilled that Michigan, Siemens, and others have stepped up to the plate to develop such a great program and academic environment. It makes me proud to be a Michigan Engineer.