About mechanical engineering

The Department of Mechanical Engineering provides its students with an outstanding educational opportunity to prepare themselves for a challenging and fulfilling career. The majority of students seeking the Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering at Saint Martin’s University School of Engineering come from the South Puget Sound. A high percentage of these students plan to enter professional practice following their undergraduate studies. Some of these graduates will work in the manufacturing sector, in the aviation and high tech industries along the I-5 corridor. The Department of Mechanical Engineering also provides opportunities for undergraduate research for those students who wish to pursue advanced degrees.

The profession of mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineers design products and systems that are exploited by the public for a variety of applications. They work in industries as diverse as aerospace, biomechanical, energy systems, propulsion and transportation systems, automated manufacturing, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and electronics. Due to their versatility, flexibility and ability to work in a team, a wide spectrum of career opportunities is open to them.

Practicing mechanical engineers are generally required to take a product from concept to prototype and beyond. They are responsible for troubleshooting and problem solving in several areas of engineering endeavor. In preparing for lifelong learning, it is necessary to develop the whole person. This requires, in addition to professional competency, a balanced program encompassing strong communication skills, and an appreciation of the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Professional competency is built on a foundation of mathematics, physical and natural sciences, engineering sciences, design, and laboratory experience. The principles learned in such disciplines are applied to mechanical design and systems, energy related issues, and fluid mechanics. The role of the engineer as a problem solver and a designer is the common thread throughout the curriculum.

Most mechanical engineering graduates take positions in industry, state government, or business. Some, however, continue their formal education in a graduate program.

The goals of the department of mechanical engineering

The department serves to provide area employers with engineers that will be creative and productive. They will be effective in oral and written communications and be aware of the ethical and societal outcomes of their professional activities. They will be able to function both as individuals and as members of a team. Our graduates will be capable of and active in the pursuit of life-long learning in order to remain in stride with the rapid pace of development of science and technology. A strong foundation of engineering science, integrated with a meaningful laboratory component helps graduates adapt to technology changes. Finally, the department provides opportunity to obtain an undergraduate education that will facilitate their success should they choose to pursue their degree at an advanced level.

The undergraduate curriculum

A curriculum has been designed to meet the challenging objectives stated above. Laboratory, written and oral communication, critical thinking and analysis, ethics, and design-oriented activities are integrated throughout the curriculum. Approximately one quarter of the total number of credits required to graduate is devoted to basic sciences and mathematics, with a similar amount devoted to the humanities, social sciences and general education topics. Roughly on half of the curriculum addresses engineering topics.

The common first two years in engineering build a foundation in fundamental science topics including calculus, chemistry, and physics. Introductions are provided to engineering problem solving and design, and computer tools. During the sophomore year students build their foundation in the sciences and mathematics. Courses are taken in advanced mathematics, differential equations, natural sciences, and engineering mechanics.

A major goal in the junior year is to develop the students' analytical skills through engineering topics equally divided between the structures and motion and the energy stems. Computers are used when appropriate to aid in reaching and interpreting solutions to engineering problems. Students participate in four laboratory courses that emphasize the statistical nature of systems and their behavior. Mechanical, thermal, and fluids systems design activities are continued in three junior year courses. Students begin to form their area of focus by taking one or two elective courses in spring of their junior year.

The main goal in the senior year is for the students to learn to integrate their knowledge in science and engineering topics, and thereby to develop a degree of maturity in their engineering capabilities. In their final year, students may tailor their curricula by choosing nine - twelve credit hours of technical electives. Each of these technical electives includes design as an important component of the course. As such, students may decide to develop depth in a certain area or to develop breadth in several areas. Some students choose to pursue an independent research project under faculty direction. The senior year culminates in a two-semester sequence in engineering design. The first design course emphasizes design considerations and methods required to solve open-ended problems, as well as written and oral communication of the design solution. The final design course is a capstone course that requires integration of knowledge gained in preceding analysis and design course and generation of a concept-to-prototype schema. Regional industries are represented at oral and written presentations made by the student teams. Both written and oral presentations of progress and final results are evaluated by faculty and industry juries. A senior seminar course serves to reinforce in the students' minds professional ethics, society responsibilities, and problems and opportunities likely to be encountered in professional practice.

An important component of engineering education is the development of an appreciation of societal, ethical, and moral issues that accompany engineering professional practice. Hence, in addition to scientific and engineering subjects, students are exposed to a total of 30 credit hours in the liberal arts to include English and literature, humanities and social studies, art, religion and philosophy. These courses are not taken at random but with the specific intent of developing skills necessary for graduates to function effectively in a diverse workplace environment.