By Martin J. Kidston
Members, patrons and curiosity seekers filled the Student Union Building at Montana State University-Northern on Friday to attend the schools first Student Professional Awareness Conference.
To open the conference sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Northern Chancellor Mike Rao posed a challenge to the schools electronic and engineering students.
You may be responsible for creating something new in Havre, Rao told the audience. But it will take fearlessness and the ability to take the risk.
Associate Engineering Professor Larry Strizich followed Rao with the conferences first discussion on the electronics field in general. Strizich, who has taught at Northern for 11 years, said the biggest shock to engineering students entering the work force is that the learning process isnt over.
To them, I think its a shock that the learning isnt over, Strizich said. Once they gain employment, they have to work in earnest, where a 50-hour work week isnt uncommon for a beginning engineer.
Strizich said that many Northern students graduate and begin work in Havre with Heberly Engineering, where they install fiber optics for rural telephone cooperatives.
Its not quite cutting edge, Strizich said, but its up there.
Students who attended the conference were told how to best prepare for the engineering profession. Topics also covered minorities in the modern engineering field. But perhaps the most intriguing discussions pertained to robotics, space exploration and satellite systems.
Weve obtained a couple of small grants to build a center of excellence, where well work on satellite tracking devices, Strizich said of Northern.
One of the purposes of the conference was to get students excited about the engineering profession a profession defined at the seminar as creative work requiring training and experience.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or I triple E, claims 320,000 members in more than 25 difference countries. Together its members work collaboratively to build a better world.