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CSU Channel Islands Announces New Engineering Program

CSUCI’s engineering program will focus on mechatronics, a multidisciplinary field of engineering that combines mechanics, control theory, computer science and electronics.
CSUCI’s engineering program will focus on mechatronics, a multidisciplinary field of engineering that combines mechanics, control theory, computer science and electronics. (CSUCI photo)

After years of work and planning, CSU Channel Islands has announced the launch of its own engineering program.

President Richard R. Rush and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, will make the formal announcement from 4-5:30 p.m. July 20, 2016, in Sierra Hall on the CSUCI campus.

“We could not be more proud to announce the addition of an engineering program at CI,” Rush said. “This university exists to serve the needs of the surrounding community, and now CI can deliver quality graduates to fill hundreds of engineering jobs available each year in Ventura County. On a personal note, I consider it privilege to welcome this long-anticipated program before my last day as president of this university.”

Rush, who retires Aug. 8, worked with Irwin as she sought support in Sacramento. Locally, Rush met with community leaders who stressed the need for an engineering program in Ventura County.

After Irwin was elected in 2014, the two began laying the groundwork to meet that need.

In 2012, university officials conducted a needs assessment study and discovered that about half of Ventura County companies planned to hire engineers.

In addition, the state Employment Development Department indicated that almost 300 new engineers are needed any given year in Ventura County. 

“I really pushed it last year in the Assembly,” Irwin said. “I was able to talk to budget chairs about the need in Ventura County. We have a military base and all of these companies in need of qualified engineers. But what really made the argument is that Channel Islands is heavily female and has a significant Latino population, and both of those groups are under-represented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields.”

In May of 2015, Irwin proposed that $1.5 million be allocated with roughly $500,000 per year used to cover three years of start-up costs, such as hiring faculty members and lab support. In June, the state legislature approved the use of $500,000 in the $117.2 billion state budget for CSUCI to begin its engineering program. 

According to Computer Science Chair Michael Soltys, Ph.D., the new major will be called “Mechatronics Engineering” and will be housed under the Computer Science Department.

“Mechatronics is a fast-growing area of engineering that is interdisciplinary by nature, as it combines aspects of mechanics, control theory, computer science and electronics,” Soltys said. “This knowledge enables engineers to optimize the design and functionality of systems as well as making them more economical and reliable. Industrial robots and drones are quintessential examples of mechatronics systems as they include aspects of electronics, mechanics and computing.”

CI is strategically located on the so-called “101 Tech Corridor,” which includes companies such as Amgen, Haas, Teledyne Technologies, HRL Laboratories and many other tech companies, not to mention Point Mugu and Port Hueneme Naval bases, as well as Lockheed, Rocketdyne and other companies in the greater Los Angeles area. 

Irwin said this investment in CI’s program is an investment in the entire region as these will be home-grown engineers who are more likely to stay in the area, strengthening Ventura County’s business environment.

“Ventura County becomes an ecosystem,” Irwin said. “Not only are they going to stay here, they will likely start their own companies and this ecosystem will attract outside companies who would like to come into this area.”

The program is targeted to begin accepting applications for fall of 2018. Graduates in a specialized engineering field can expect median annual wages of $92,680 as of May of 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Irwin said she is pleased to be joining President Rush as he makes this announcement.

“It is so fitting this is his last major announcement,” she said. “He should get full credit. He is the one who reached out to the community and learned there was a great need. His leaving is bittersweet, but he leaves on a very high note.”

Kim Gregory is a communication specialist at CSU Channel Islands.

 

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