Northeast Wisconsin is home to some of the state’s largest manufacturers who – in order to maintain a competitive advantage – are hiring future focused engineers who can solve real world problems. One manufacturer says UW-Green Bay’s newly remodeled engineering labs and programs are an incredible boon to the local economy.
“UW-Green Bay’s engineering programs make it much easier for students interested in engineering to pursue a degree without needing to relocate out of the area,” said Steve Betchner, engineering manager at Pieper Automation in Neenah.
A $5 million gift from the founder of Green Bay furniture company KI in 2018 created the Richard J. Resch School of Engineering. The University launched a four-year mechanical engineering degree program then and added an electrical engineering degree program in fall 2021.
The addition of the engineering program was backed by the Greater Green Bay Chamber’s Economic Development Strategic Plan, said John Katers, dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology.
“Our electrical engineering program is unique in this part of the state,” he said. “There are electrical engineering tech programs here, but this is a four-year bachelor’s degree.”
Starting this school year, students will begin using the new $5.7 million Technology, Engineering, Arts and Media (TEAM) Laboratories. The 13,300-square-foot space is equipped with state-of-the-art classrooms and labs with advanced instrumentation. Four engineering labs are included in the suite — an electrical engineering lab, electronic circuits lab, electrical machines lab and senior design lab. In addition to engineering, TEAM also houses space for the physics program and student-run media and entertainment facilities, including radio, TV, news and gaming.
“The new labs provide a great learning environment for the students and provide hands-on opportunities,” Katers said. “The space also serves as a magnet to attract future students with the energy and excitement it creates.”
A growing company, Pieper Automation needs talented engineers to keep up with customers’ needs, Betchner said. Pieper Automation became involved with UW-Green Bay’s new program to help future generations of students receive a high-quality engineering education in the region, he added.
“We were able to meet with the UW-Green Bay engineering faculty and the UW-Green Bay Foundation leaders to review the plans and discuss how we could be involved in supporting the program,” Betchner said. “The opportunity to sponsor the Engineering Senior Design Lab provided us with an immediate and lasting impact on the programs at UW-Green Bay.”
Katers said the University meets regularly with employers and the engineering program “is what they’re looking for.”
Betchner agrees. His involvement with UW-Green Bay began when he served on the Engineering Technology Advisory Committee, which helped develop the programs. In 2018, Pieper Automation hired its first engineering intern, who was hired full time and is still with the company today.
“We plan to get more involved and stay involved as both Pieper Automation and the UW-Green Bay engineering programs grow,” Betchner said.