Professor: Use of simulation an industry norm for engineers

HOUGHTON – Using a new teaching tool can present a challenge for students, but most of his engineering students understand the need to be aware of what industry is going to expect of them when they go to look for a job, according to Chuck Van Karsen.

Van Karsen, associate professor in Michigan Technological University’s Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Department, said the new HyperWorks software students are using is more real world than some other parts of their education.

“The students get a lot of engineering physics and engineering science,” he said. “When they become working engineers, they need to be able to apply those concepts in an effective manner. Industry is asking us to send students who can use (simulation software).”

Van Karsen said simulation software is the norm in industry, now.

“Simulate as much as you can first,” he said.

Van Karsen’s co-instructor, instructional design specialist Jim DeClerck, said in their early years in the engineering program, students learn concepts and equations, but by the time they start using the simulation software, they don’t have to worry about those as they work creating simulations.

“The software sets up all the equations,” he said.

DeClerck said the new software presents few problems for some students, while others may have some difficulty using it.

“I’d say it’s mixed,” he said of the students reactions to the new software. “It’s very different environment for students.”

Van Karsen said some students haven’t yet realized how important having a grasp of the simulation software will be when they move into the job market.

As with all software, the HyperWorks simulation software will be constantly updated, but Van Karsen said the creator will be keeping the university supplied with new versions.