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ODU Board of Visitors Approves Creation of M&S Engineering Undergraduate Program

Old Dominion University's Board of Visitors unanimously endorsed the creation of an undergraduate program in modeling and simulation (M&S) engineering at its April 2 meeting. Pending approval of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the university, by 2012, will be able to instruct students from high school right through to the doctoral level in the rapidly expanding field.

Once the SCHEV hurdle is cleared, ODU hopes to offer freshman and sophomore years of the fully accredited program as early as the 2009-10 fall semester.

"About a decade ago, when ODU engineering college introduced the graduate studies in Modeling and Simulation, the first PhD program in this field and one of only two master's programs in the country, we were cautiously optimistic that they would be well received," said Oktay Baysal, dean of the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

"The fact that we now have many successful alumni, over 100 graduate students currently in these programs, and the extramural push to develop the undergraduate program are all self-assuring."

Proponents of the program explained to the Board of Visitors that the Hampton Roads area has the potential to lead the world in modeling and simulation, provided the workforce is available and trained to fill openings in the rapidly expanding field.

The "missing component" in the educational mix needed to expand the M&S workforce is the presence of an undergraduate modeling and simulation program, the proponents argued.

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Roland Mielke said the programis the key element in continuing to develop M&S academic programs.

"The M&S engineering program provides a next step for high school students and community college students interested in M&S, and it provides a new stream of potential students for Old Dominion University's existing M&S graduate programs," Mielke said.

"Most importantly, the program will provide the entry level workforce so desperately needed by our regional M&S industry.

Mielke said the program is likely to be the first engineering program in modeling and simulation in the United States accredited by ABET, Inc., the national accreditation body for engineering.

Since the 1960s, modeling and simulation has been one of the standard analysis tools used in engineering and science. Locally, companies and organizations such as Northrop Grumman and NASA have used models to investigate the behavior of a particular object, such as a sea vessel or a lunar rover, under different circumstances.

With the spread of computer technology in the 1990s, the applications for M&S technology have expanded to many fields, from medicine to disaster preparedness.

A 2004 Economic and Cluster Analysis Study indicates that M&S contributed $413 million annually to the Hampton Roads regional output, a figure forecast to grow to $764 million this year. The report indicated that M&S employment was projected to be 7,000 in the area by the end of 2009. A key challenge for the M&S cluster at the time of the study was the ability to train a workforce sufficient to meet the growing industry's needs.

That's the niche the ODU program hopes to fill.

The undergraduate M&S program would make use of faculty experts in all six of ODU's colleges, although the degree awarded would be a bachelor's of science from the engineering college. The university's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) would also play an active role in the program.

The objectives of the program are to provide the fundamental knowledge and skills of M&S engineering necessary to help graduates go on to successful careers, to teach the knowledge and teamwork skills necessary for them to communicate what they've learned effectively, and to prepare them to propose innovative solutions to challenging technical problems and take leadership positions in realizing them.

This article was posted on: April 3, 2009

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