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Grant Funds Engineering Education for Vets

SDSU's Troops to Engineers program receives its second National Science Foundation grant.
Steven Cline, with U.S. Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 133, makes adjustments for the reconstruction of Mwan Elementary School during a Pacific Partnership engineering civic action program.
Steven Cline, with U.S. Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 133, makes adjustments for the reconstruction of Mwan Elementary School during a Pacific Partnership engineering civic action program.

More service members will become engineers after their military careers are done, if San Diego State University has anything to do with it. With the aid of a new grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovations in Engineering Education, Curriculum, and Infrastructure (IEECI) program, the SDSU College of Engineering will launch two new programs aimed at preparing veterans for careers in engineering.

The $200,000 San Diego SERVICE (Success in Engineering through Internship and Career Experience) Program will begin to connect veteran students in engineering at SDSU with year-round internships in engineering firms across San Diego. Additionally, it will support advanced math courses offered to active duty servicemembers in San Diego to augment their  military training and experience with the math background they will need to thrive on transfer to SDSU.

What veterans need

Initial results from a related and ongoing study, conducted by SDSU’s College of Engineering, indicate that military training provides some of the important skills necessary to excel in engineering.  However for many veterans, math, which is a cornerstone of the profession, is an area that needs to be refreshed or brought to a greater level in order for them to particiapte and graduate from SDSU’s program.

“Usually veterans come to us with a great deal of skill and expertise in field work,” said David Hayhurst, Dean of the College of Engineering. “They already know how to survey and schedule. But it’s like they’ve done the lab work without most of the classroom work. They need both to excel in our program and in their careers.”

Improved math skills

To accommodate this, the NSF grant will provide for calculus and trigonometry courses through San Diego City College (SDCC). SDCC already has courses in place for the military, some of which actually take place on military sites and bases. Based on this new NSF award, SDCC has already opened an online course in trigonometry this semester, so that servicemembers will be prepared to take pre-calculus on base through the San Diego SERVICE program in the Spring. The partnership is a natural fit, and will enable these veteans to jump right in to SDSU’s engineering program without having to catch up on their math courses after they’ve arrived on campus.

Sparking a passion

Additionally, one of the things that has been found to spark a passion for engineering in veterans is a quality internship. The second part of the NSF grant will fund an internship coordinator position for the college whose role will be to work within the industry to create and identify positions for these student veterans. Already Qualcomm has shown interest in the program and is holding an orientation for potential SDSU interns.

Engineering students make up five percent of the student population at SDSU. And nearly twenty percent of the student veterans on campus are engineering and computer science students.

“There’s a very natural fit in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields for veterans,” Hayhurst said.

“Many of the things they do in the military translate directly to careers in these areas. So it’s our job to make it easier for them to transition from serving our country to their post-military careers.”

The previous SDSU study, known as Transitioning Troops to Engineers: From Military Experience to a Civilian Career, is also the result of an NSF grant, and seeks to identify courses offered through all branches of the military that significantly translate to those required by SDSU to earn a degree in engineering.


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