The redesigned curriculum, adapting to an industry that's relying more on technology and less on traditional manufacturing jobs, will feature remote laboratories at some of UCF's corporate partners. Students will interact with employees and view actual systems, such as assembly lines or cashier stations, that engineers are redesigning and improving.
UCF, which has about 450 industrial engineering students, also will spend part of the grant on recruiting talented high school students, particularly women and minorities. Most students who join industrial engineering programs throughout the country are already in college and are switching majors.
Bruce Kramer, director of engineering education at the National Science Foundation, said UCF's changes during the next three years will better prepare students for a corporate world where the need for industrial engineers in the service and information technology industries is increasing while the role of more traditional manufacturing jobs diminishes.
"The industrial engineers at UCF have proposed to reinvent what industrial engineering is," Kramer said. "Our hope is that they'll do such a good job that other IE departments stand up, take notice and follow their lead."
Lesia Crumpton-Young, department chair of industrial engineering and management systems at UCF, said more aggressive recruiting at high schools should begin in the spring. In the fall, UCF's industrial engineering program plans to start a minor in engineering management, which will better prepare students for jobs as managers and for other leadership roles, such as project team leader, she said.
UCF received a planning grant of $100,000 a year ago from the National Science Foundation to begin developing the new curriculum. Crumpton-Young has attended national engineering conferences and visited other universities to discuss the planned changes. The National Science Foundation awarded the $951,000 grant in September.
Erik Halleus, a retired vice president with Siemens Corp. and a member of UCF's industrial engineering advisory board, said businesses will welcome the redesigned curriculum because universities have responded too slowly to the changing needs of an industry that's relying more on technology.
"We need exactly the education that's talked about in this proposal," he said. "Industry will really look forward to these graduates when they start coming out."