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CSU-Pueblo welcomes new engineering degree

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CSU-Pueblo is bringing a new master’s degree with emphasis areas in mechatronics and railroad engineering. Photo courtesy of engineersweek.com

The engineering department is bringing a new master’s degree with emphasis areas in mechatronics and railroad engineering to Colorado State University Pueblo.

The new mechatronics program is already underway, having been implemented last fall. The railroad engineering emphasis is not beginning until the fall semester of 2013, Professor Nebojsa Jaksic, acting chair of the engineering department, said.

These two emphasis areas are not found anywhere nearby, as the next closest program is found in Michigan, Jaksic said.

The funding for the new program was made possible by a partnership with Transportation Technology Center, Inc. according to a news release written by Cora Zaletel, the Executive Director of External Affairs for CSU-Pueblo.

TTCI saw a need in Pueblo for a stronger education background in order to attract more companies to Pueblo. Many people involved in the railroad business believe that roads are reaching capacity and more goods will be shipped by train, raising the need for more engineers, Jaksic said.

“As the railroad industry moves toward more advanced technology, engineers are becoming more important, especially those trained in the emphasis areas CSU-Pueblo will offer,” TTCI Vice President of Engineering Robert Florom said, according to the news release.

These new master’s degree will provide more skilled workers to Pueblo’s railroad centered businesses. Many students who graduate with degrees in engineering already have jobs lined up in Pueblo, Jaksic said.

The mechatronics emphasis will also be valuable to the railroad world. Mechatronics involves “whatever moves and has (technological) brains,” Jaksic said.

Artificial intelligence such as cars which can drive by themselves, pull out of a parking spot by themselves and sending robots into space instead of humans are a few examples Jaksic gave of mechatronics applications.

Having the master’s with mechatronics emphasis will add classes such as Artifical Intelligence and Intelligent Robotics to the engineering department, Jaksic said.

“People with master’s degrees in mechatronics are expected to take leading roles in projects in railroad engineering,” Jaksic said.

CSU-Pueblo currently has 120-150 engineering majors, Jaksic estimated. Although the engineering department is middle sized in comparison to the other departments on campus, in recent years it has seen a lot of growth.

The undergraduate levels are “bursting at the seams,” Jaksic said.

Despite these large numbers, the new master’s programs are expected to start off small.

“Usually new programs do not see a lot of growth unless you recruit and advertise. We will be happy to start with 10 students in the program for the first year,” Jaksic said.

The school and the department have kept the new programs quiet, not expecting or necessarily wanting a large first year.

“We just want a nice little pilot for the first year to stabilize it. Whatever we find that is problematic we can replace with something useful,” Jaksic said.

Over a period of 5-10 years, the program could get up to as many as forty students, but that is where it would have to stop.

“It would be hard to build the program much bigger than that without more resources,” Jaksic said.

CSU-Pueblo will not be hiring any more staff to implement the new degree, because TTCI has supplied personnel for the program at this time. As the program gets larger, Jaksic predicts that more positions will be asked for by the university.