Fleet Readiness Center East recently hosted visitors from East Carolina University to strengthen a longstanding relationship and partnership in developing future engineers.
ECU College of Engineering and Technology Dean Harry Ploehn and Department of Engineering chair Barbara Muller-Borer visited FRCE, located at Marine Air Corps Station Cherry Point, on Jan. 16, and six senior engineering students who are working on a capstone project visited Jan. 17.
“We’re always looking to build. We want to have more ECU engineering grads here,” said Ploehn. “We want to be able to help and support FRC East in any way we can, and we are producing quality and a quantity of great engineers for (the organization).”
Ploehn and Muller-Borer toured the facility’s depot operations, learned about engineering workloads and jobs, and engaged ECU alumni along the way.
“Just seeing the breadth of capabilities, understanding the kinds of job functions … really what is (the) business and what are needs of (the) organization,” said Ploehn of the reason for the visit. “It helps us to see the nuts and bolts of what you do to be able to understand how we can help (FRC East) best.”
Muller-Borer added that the trip informed their awareness “to be able to better prepare our students.”
According to Mark Meno, AIR-4.0 research and engineering group head, FRCE’s relationship with ECU spans about a decade and the organization is benefitting from outreach and engagement efforts that have attracted ECU alumni.
“We have 70 Pirate graduates on the engineering and logistics team in large part due to efforts in collaboration with the engineering program at ECU,” said Meno. “Those include a number of sponsored capstone senior design projects, employer panel discussions with students and FRC East Pirates personally recruiting their fellow Pirates to this purposeful job in service to the defense of our nation.”
As the ECU administrators expanded their awareness of FRC East, a group of ECU students looked toward completing their senior project. The students will design a solution to replace the existing method or system for blade failure detection on CH/MH-53E helicopters.
Members from the research and engineering group gave the students an overview and orientation tour of FRCE. It offered a close look at the aircraft and systems related to the project and made them aware of how engineers interact in the work process at the aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul depot.
“Being able to come and go through the tour makes the project more real,” said Jesse Ham, avionics engineer for the MQ-8 Fire Scout Fleet Support Team. “It really shows the hands-on opportunities the engineers get here.”
“The classroom briefing (at ECU) about our capstone project specifications was broad,” said Betsy Hoss, a biomedical engineering major. “Here, we can see how the blades are worked on … seeing this in action is better than reading about it.”
The goal of the capstone project is to give the students an abbreviated, real-world engineering experience, while enhancing problem-solving and critical thinking skills, project management, interpersonal relations and technical skills.
“Our visit here today and the face-to-face conversations with Jesse helped us better understand what we’re tasked to do in our project,” said Camden McCall, an electrical engineering major. “Today’s visit helped me get a better idea of what capstone is really about. As a freshman, it seemed very daunting. Now, it’s exciting and achievable.”
The administrators emphasized how the engagement with FRC East benefits students in the engineering and technology program.
“It really has been a great relationship … and has continued to grow,” said Muller-Borer, giving mention to longtime engineering advisory board member Chris Holder. “They come and they help us to identify what we can improve in our curriculum and we listen to them, and they’re not that far away. Our students look forward to coming here to work.”
“The program has many capstone teams where our seniors come and do projects at FRC East, and that’s tremendous experience for them,” Ploehn said. “It’s preparing them and bringing them up to a level where they are able to hit the ground running when they enter full-time employment, whether it’s here or in industry or wherever they go.”
-by John Olmstead, public affairs officer, Fleet Readiness Center East