October 10, 2004
Purdue School of Technology celebrates anniversary, looks to future
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. The Purdue University School of Technology, one of the nation's oldest of its kind, is celebrating its 40th anniversary by bringing education to students throughout Indiana and working with communities to help strengthen their economies.
"In 1964 Purdue led the nation by founding one of the first schools of technology, ushering in a new era of important academic programs throughout the country," said Purdue President Martin C. Jischke. "Forty years later, it is one of our state's greatest economic assets. The school sets the national standard for the preparation of technologically proficient graduates, not only with its unequalled academic programs, but also with campuses and economic development efforts throughout Indiana."
Purdue will celebrate the school's anniversary with a ceremony at 9 a.m. Thursday (Oct. 14) at the Purdue Bell Tower. The event is part of a 10-day celebration that focuses on ways Purdue is improving education and helping the state of Indiana as part of the university's strategic plan and $1.3 billion fund-raising campaign.
Since its founding, the School of Technology has grown to enroll more than 4,000 students a year at the West Lafayette campus in eight departments: aviation technology, building construction management, computer technology, computer graphics technology, electrical and computer engineering technology, industrial technology, mechanical engineering technology, and organizational leadership and supervision.
Today, in addition to Purdue's West Lafayette campus, the School of Technology operates at seven locations throughout Indiana: Kokomo/Lafayette, Richmond, South Bend/Elkhart, Indianapolis, Columbus/SE Indiana, New Albany and Anderson/Muncie. These locations serve more than 1,500 students.
The school's mission is to serve industry, producing graduates ready to join the work force with applied skills that companies need. It also serves as a liaison to connect industry with the university's resources.
School of Technology Dean Dennis R. Depew said one of the strengths of the School of Technology is that a large majority of its alumni remain in Indiana after graduating. More than 70 percent of student from the schools state in the state after graduation, and students at locations other than West Lafayette stay in Indiana at a rate of more than 90 percent.
"Our locations outside of West Lafayette were launched to serve working adults with ties to their local communities," Depew said. "These students are prepared to immediately put their educations to use in their communities."
At the same time, though, more and more fresh high school graduates are choosing to attend Purdue at the statewide locations, said Michael T. O'Hair, associate dean for statewide technology and engagement.
"These students take advantage of the fact that they can live at home, reducing the cost of their education almost in half," O'Hair said. "Of our 1,500 students at statewide sites, about 40 percent are part of this more traditional college age group.
"The School of Technology takes its role in the state's work force development very seriously and works hard to provide Indiana workers with education that will help them to advance their careers with Indiana companies."
In that regard, the school also offers courses in communities in the areas surrounding the seven statewide locations, often in collaboration with local businesses. For example, the Kokomo/Lafayette location not only offers courses to Subaru of Indiana Automotive employees in facilities at the Lafayette plant, but also offers classes at businesses in Crawfordsville, Logansport and other communities.
"These work force development activities are important to the mission of the school, and we plan to expand courses into more communities in coming years," O'Hair said.
The school's more than 200 faculty members, many of whom have extensive industry experience, and the locations throughout the state are reaching out to the communities with a number of efforts in addition to courses and education. For example, the school assisted in the establishment of the Kokomo Technology Center, a partnership among the school, Kokomo, Howard County and corporate partners.
That, in turn, helped create Kokomo's new certified technology park, which was announced in September.
"In addition to being a high-tech incubator for the community, the center serves as a focal point of Purdue efforts to help serve Kokomo, Howard County and north-central Indiana," O'Hair said. "The facility will include a Purdue engagement office, and local School of Technology faculty there serve as liaisons between north-central Indiana businesses and Purdue faculty and researchers."
O'Hair said he hopes the school can use the model to help other communities. For example, school officials are planning an advanced manufacturing summits in Columbus, New Albany and Richmond that would bring together business owners, Purdue researchers and government officials to improve the technology used in the area's manufacturing facilities.
"The role of the School of Technology throughout the state is changing to adapt to the needs of businesses and the Indiana economy," O'Hair said. "If you don't like change, you are at the wrong university. Our business is driving change and economic development for the state."
As school officials look ahead, they also do so with an eye toward expanding faculty and student research efforts most needed for the state and nation, particularly in areas that can have an immediate impact on safety and security.
"Purdue's School of Technology is uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of many emerging technologies," Depew said. "We've been able to attract top-level faculty members who are working with businesses, government agencies and other researchers across campus to develop the next generation of technology applications."
The Department of Computer Technology is working with state and federal law enforcement to develop the emerging field of computer forensics. Computer forensics is the process of retrieving and analyzing evidence from computer systems, including individual pieces of computer hardware, electronic data on the Internet, cellular telephones, personal digital assistants or digital cameras. Computer forensics has implications in areas ranging from terrorism and child exploitation to identity theft and bank fraud.
Researchers are developing close ties with the Indiana State Police, U.S. Department of Justice, FBI and other law enforcement agencies to create education and certification processes, develop forensic software and hardware, and set standards and protocols for investigators. They are also working in interdisciplinary research teams to develop techniques for profiling offenders' behavior based on their computer-use habits.
In computer graphics technology, faculty are developing educational software to teach mathematics to deaf children in primary grades using state-of-the-art technology.
"The impact of this project could be tremendous," said Melissa J. Dark, assistant dean of planning and research. "Developing mathematical foundations is critical in grade school, and deaf children are at a distinct disadvantage because most instructional materials for deaf children are text-based. Deaf children also lag behind in learning to read, thereby making their mathematical development even later. This software has the potential to bring math to deaf children in the primary grades."
Another faculty member in electrical and computer engineering technology is working on the fabrication of a silicon micro-scalpel with a nanometer cutting edge, a tool could enable less invasive surgical procedures.
In biometrics, faculty and students in the Department of Industrial Technology are working to develop security processes that can identify people by such methods as facial recognition or fingerprint measurements. Many government officials say biometrics technology is one of the most promising ways to improve security in fields ranging from transportation to banking.
Among other research projects, the biometrics laboratory is working with the Purdue Airport and School of Technology's Department of Aviation Technology on a facial recognition program. In the project, cameras and biometric software are being used to identify student pilots as they enter secure areas of the airport.
"Biometrics and computer technology are just two areas in which the School of Technology is positioned to take a lead and develop new technologies that will help keep people safer," Dark said. "Throughout the school, our faculty are leading research that will set the base for technical advancements for the next 40 years."
Writer: Matt Holsapple, (765) 494-2073, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708, email@example.com
Dennis R. Depew, (765) 494-2552, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael O'Hair, (765) 494-2554, email@example.com
Melissa J. Dark, (765) 494-2554, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
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