Responding to President Obama’s call to empower America’s students and entrepreneurs to invent the future, California State University, Northridge officials today affirmed the university’s commitment to doing what it can to foster entrepreneurship and innovation on campus and in the community.
CSUN was one of more than 150 universities across the country to participate in a joint letter to the White House pledging to help fuel a renaissance in American manufacturing.
“Engineering is about building something that never existed before until you envisioned it,” said S.K. Ramesh, dean of CSUN’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. “That is, fundamentally, what the White House Maker Faire initiative is about — getting people to make things. The only way to do that is to get people to use the incredible tools and technologies that we have today to actually build something.”
Ramesh said CSUN is doing its part by remodeling its engineering manufacturing shop and setting aside space so that members of the business community can come in, build and test their ideas for a new product.
“CSUN has a very long tradition of hands-on learning,” Ramesh said. “We are working to develop a program where, if you are a member of the community and have an idea, you can come into our shop, get trained on the equipment, and then work with our students and faculty to see that idea become a reality. We can work together — the university and the entrepreneur — to model the idea on a computer, devise the best way to optimize the design and use 3-D printers, for instance, to make a product and test it.
“It brings to life the best of what engineering is about — service to the community.”
CSUN’s College of Engineering and Computer Science is home to more than 3,900 students and graduates approximately 500 students annually with undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and computer science. It has an international reputation for its “hands-on” approach to learning that provides students with opportunities for undergraduate research and laboratory work, as well as internships and industry experience.
Ramesh said the university’s commitment to encouraging entrepreneurship and technological and engineering innovation is as old as the university itself. He noted that CSUN offers one of only three Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited bachelor’s degree programs in manufacturing systems engineering in the state of California.
The college’s 5,000-square-foot Haas Automation Lab features rapid prototypers, 3-D printers and the latest CNC machines. The lab is divided into two: One half is devoted to fabrication, is where students make parts. The other half is where students work on their senior design projects, including a human-powered vehicle, an unmanned aerial vehicle, a Formula SAE car and an intelligent ground vehicle.
The college’s Ernie Schaeffer Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation develops programs to engage students in advanced manufacturing and entrepreneurship utilizing the latest technologies. On June 19 and 20, the center will host its second annual conference on the Art of Innovation.
“We also work very closely with local high schools to encourage students to pursue engineering by offering a college-credit eligible ‘Introduction to Engineering’ course,” Ramesh said. “The program is anchored by high school teachers who serve as lab instructors in a dozen area high schools.”
The university, under the leadership of President Dianne F. Harrison, Provost Harry Hellenbrand, Ramesh and Tseng College Dean Joyce Feucht-Havier, recently became part of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, an initiative launched last month by the U.S. Department of Commerce designed to revolutionize the way federal agencies leverage economic development funds. It encourages communities to develop comprehensive economic development strategies that will strengthen their competitive edge for attracting global manufacturing and supply chain investments.
CSUN is part of the Southern California effort, one of 12 communities selected by an interagency panel for the program out of 70 nationwide. The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership of the Southern California Manufacturing Community is focused on aerospace and associated industries in the supply chain. The partnership is lead by the University of Southern California’s Center for Economic Development and includes local governments, businesses and educational institutions, including the five CSU campuses in the area.
“By working together, we can be much more effective and make a difference,” Ramesh said.
He added CSUN is committed to helping advance STEM education, innovation, entrepreneurship and advanced manufacturing.
“The Maker Faire initiative will benefit teams of students working on innovative projects and can make a significant impact on engineering instruction in universities like ours that have a diverse student body with unique educational needs,” he said.