A small car sat in the lobby of the WSU Tri-Cities’ wine science center building.
The vehicle represents what makes the new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences special, said Joseph Iannelli, the school’s executive director.
It was designed by mechanical engineers. The wires were designed by electrical engineers. It’s powered with a hydrogen-fuel cell battery.
The school held its inauguration ceremony Thursday night. WSU’s regents allowed the school to begin offering classes at the Tri-Cities campus earlier in the year.
“There are programs in this school in civil engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering and computer science,” Iannelli said. “Here is a unique feature of this school — there are no separate departments. ... That allows us to pursue interdisciplinary projects.”
The school offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering along with computer science, and a graduate program in environmental engineering.
The formation of the school allows students and faculty to work directly with the public and private industries surrounding the area, said engineer Noel Schulz, the wife of WSU president Kirk Schulz.
“We have engineers who have opportunities to look at multiple different programs as part of WSU,” Schulz said.
“One of the things we see is that a lot of baby boomers are going to be retiring, and in the areas of electrical engineering, civil engineering and mechanical engineering we’re going to have a lot of replacement jobs,” she said.
Locating the school in the Tri-Cities allows students from the region to stay in the region as they are training for their field.
Eric Loeffler, a mechanical engineering major, is one of those students. He demonstrated a robot to the crowd prior to the ceremony.
He decided to attend the university after studying at Columbia Basin College. He wanted to stay in the area and pursue his education, he said.
Iannelli said students like Loeffler are why it is important to have engineering programs that are easily accessible to people.
“What we do is to educate Washington talent for Washington companies, because when these companies need to hire professionals and don’t find Washington talent, they hire talent from out of state,” Iannelli said.
“But more often than not, five years down the road, these professionals want to go back home and these companies have got to start their hiring process again,” he added.