ABET Accreditation

The major in mechanical engineering has three program education objectives, they are:

  • Graduates have demonstrated success as a mechanical engineer or their chosen career field;
  • Graduates have advanced their educational pursuits through graduate education, professional registration, or similar means;
  • Graduates have advanced their careers by engaging in professional society participation and community service outreach;

Expected student outcomes are:

(a)       an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering

(b)       an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

(c)       an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability

(d)       an ability to function on multidisciplinary teams

(e)       an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

(f)        an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

(g)       an ability to communicate effectively

(h)       the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context

(i)        a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning

(j)        a knowledge of contemporary issues

(k)       an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.Enrollment is from IRR Census Data

 

Enrollment Data

  Fall 2014 Spring 2015 Fall 2015 Spring 2016 Fall 2016 Spring 2017 Fall 2017 Spring 2018
Freshmen 5 6 89 71 93 60 126 74
Sophomore 3 14 12 18 47 62 47 70
Junior 2 7 24 30 45 57 72 74
Senior 2 4 11 19 38 54 79 107
Total 12 31 136 138 223 233 324 325
Graduates       1 0 10 5 0

 

 

Volgenau’s Department of Mechanical Engineering to Seek ABET Accreditation

It is the most often asked question by parents of me – “Is your program ABET accredited?”

Mistakenly viewed as a certification or stamp of approval, accreditation by ABET represents more than a static symbol of accountability. Rather it represents a culture of investment by the university in its engineering programs, and in turn, an investment by the engineering programs in continuous improvement of their curricula and facilities for the benefit of its faculty, staff, and student-body.  It is what all engineering programs pursue and what other engineering programs strive to maintain. 

The Meaning of Accreditation

Without a doubt, gaining ABET accreditation is the most important initiative for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Gaining ABET accreditation signals a culture of continuous improvement of its programs within a department and places its graduates on the pathway towards professional licensure. Employers value this aspect of undergraduate engineering education.   

 

The Accreditation Process

I am no stranger with ABET and program assessment. As a ABET program evaluator for six years and now as a commissioner for four years, I know quite well how a department prepares for a visit.  And I will bring this knowledge and experience to bear as we start our journey. It is a process, and one that started with graduating our first student in May 2016.  Next the department will submit a request for evaluation this January 2017; compile and submit to ABET a self-study with supporting documentation by July 1, 2017; prepare for a campus visit by a team of evaluators in fall 2017; and then await results from the Engineering Accreditation Commission summer meeting in July 2018.  It is during this summer commission meeting that commissioners vote on accreditation actions for programs. The normal effective date of accreditation will be October 1, 2016 with a one retroactive status (automatic) and October 1, 2015 with a two-year retroactive status (requested).

What does seeking accreditation entail?  First a team is formed consisting of program evaluators and a team chair.  The accreditation team must assess compliance of a program to a general and a program criterion. The mechanical engineering program criterion is authored by our professional society, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME.   Demonstration of continuous improvement process for the program, sufficient resources for students and faculty to achieve student outcomes, adequate laboratory facilities, and evidence of constituent engagement are all components of these criteria. 

 

Our Path to Accreditation

Since the start of the program in 2014, we have continued to improve the curriculum, add faculty, and build resources and facilities. 

In 2016, we added six faculty members and expect to add several more in 2017. These faculty members bring expertise areas such as computational fluid dynamics, materials science and engineering, and solid mechanics. Beginning fall 2017, students will begin taking courses in newly remodeled spaces totaling 5800 ft2 at cost of approximately $1.8 million. These spaces will house new labs and a state-of-the-art teaching classroom. 

Departments in the Volgenau School of Engineering all have close ties to industry experts; mechanical engineering is no different. Our proximity to Washington, D.C. and the Northern Virginia technology corridor provide guidance and knowledge about workforce development demands, industry expectations, and employment trends. The department has leveraged the talent and expertise of these employers to build its advisory board. Our advisory board has representatives from several leading corporations including Jacobs Engineering, Lockheed Martin, and the Mitre Corporation.

 

 

Some Final Words

The accreditation process is confidential.  Reported on ABET’s website are only programs that have met both the general and a program specific criteria. We have a dedicated faculty and staff in the department who are committed to reaching all of its goals, and gaining ABET accreditation is one of the highest on the list. 

 

Oscar Barton, Jr. Professor and Department Chair

December, 2016