Boeing Donates High-Tech Equipment to Prepare Manufacturing Engineering Technology Students for Workplace



June 10, 2005 – Thanks to a gift from The Boeing Company, students in manufacturing engineering technology and industrial technology at Southeast Missouri State University will have stronger skills and be better prepared to work with leading edge technologies of computer aided measurement systems.

The Boeing Company recently donated a four-head, computer controlled Leica Industrial Theodolite system to Southeast. Boeing officials made the gift after identifying a shortfall of skilled employees in the field of precision metrology at its facility in St. Louis, according to Dr. Ragu Athinarayanan, chair of the Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology.

This expertise is integral to close tolerance assembly processes used to produce advanced aerospace products, he said.

Boeing officials researched a number of universities both in Missouri and out-of-state that might be willing to partner with the company to incorporate classroom and hands-on training in this specialty area. After Boeing officials contacted Dennis Roedemeier, executive director of the Southeast Innovation Center, they decided Southeast was a good fit for this partnership, Athinarayanan said.  This decision was based on the availability of faculty expertise and facilities to support the implementation of the advanced technology. 

He says the department is excited about this collaboration with Boeing.

 “Boeing’s donation will allow our students the opportunity to work with optical measurement equipment, a state-of-the-art tool that will significantly enhance and alleviate many of the limitations they face with the technology and instrumentations currently used in our laboratories,” he said. 

Excited about Boeing’s collaboration with the Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology at Southeast, Leica Geosystems also partnered in this effort.  Leica Geosystems, a world renowned leader in measurement systems, donated their state-of-the-art software for supporting the activities in this project. 

The advanced technologies were fully integrated into the department’s CAD/CAM courses this spring, and students already are getting hands-on experience with the technology.

“This donation is a major step forward in our plans to develop a computer aided measurement lab for our technical programs,” said Dr. Randy Shaw, dean of the School of Polytechnic Studies and assistant provost of extended learning. “Students prepared to use these technologies will, in turn, be ready to assist future employers in the region to incorporate these technologies to improve quality and productivity.”

Prior to the donation, the department had technology only to measure and inspect three dimensional objects using coordinate measuring systems, Athinarayanan said. That measurement and inspection system was based on tactile sensing technology and had limitations in the size, geometries, and the type of part or tool it could inspect, he said.

“Introduction of the new system, which is based on non-contact scanning, beyond enhancing the technology being taught in the classroom and laboratories, allows the department to expand into unchartered areas in its curriculum,” he said. 

Specifically, the technology has enabled the department to introduce its students to concepts of reverse engineering in its curriculum.  Reverse engineering, which is fundamentally different from traditional CAD/CAM systems, has its benefits in shortening product development cycles, reducing manufacturing waste, and offers faster and more accurate computer-aided engineering analysis including quality inspections. 

The Theodolite system is being incorporated into TG220 “Solid Modeling and Rapid Prototyping,” MN354 “Computer Aided Manufacturing,” IM311 “Statistical Process Control,” TG324 “Design Modeling & Processes” and TG326 “Industrial Production Drafting.” Faculty are integrating the new technology in these courses with applications ranging from scanning and measuring complex shapes and surface geometries, computer modeling and reverse engineering, metrology, and quality inspection and analysis of engineered parts.

“The theodolites have been a great addition to our program, and the benefits to our students are tremendous,” Athinarayanan said. “We are confident that our graduates being trained on this new technology, coupled with their strong academic preparation in the appropriate concepts and theories of manufacturing, will become a significant asset to Boeing’s workforce.

“This technology opens up a lot of areas for our students in the field of advanced manufacturing,” he added. “We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Boeing for their continued support of our program, and we are hopeful our graduates in the area of manufacturing will be a prime resource to the company in the years ahead.” Doug Koch, an instructor in Southeast’s School of Polytechnic Studies, said, “Not too many schools train using this technology. We are trying to bring in more of what the high-end industries do into our program. Having Boeing helping us do that is good for us. Boeing is giving our students access to technology, internships and jobs, and that is very important to us.”