Engineers receive grant from Duke Energy

Francis Marion University (FMU) continues to make strides toward the new mechanical engineering program with the help of a $50,000 grant to FMU from the Duke Energy Foundation.

The grant, which FMU received on June 5, is a contribution from Duke Energy’s “K to Career” program. According to Mindy Taylor, Duke Energy’s government and community development manager, the Duke Energy Foundation is a long-time comrade and supporter of FMU and their investment to creating and improving higher learning programs.  

“The Duke Energy Foundation really has three priority areas,” Taylor said. “One of those is called ‘K to Career,’ and it encompasses funding grants that focus on literacy, STEM and work force development. We know that building a pipeline of future employees starts in childhood and is developed throughout one’s educational journey into their career choice.”

Taylor also said the arrival of the new program would greatly benefit both institutions.

“Most recently, we awarded more than $660,000 in grants to 16 programs across South Carolina,” Taylor said. “Francis Marion was one of those universities. The creation of the new program supports our workforce development efforts tremendously.”

The $50,000 gifted to FMU will go toward purchasing necessary equipment for the program. According to Derek Jokisch, professor of physics and engineering, items such as small wind tunnels for fluid dynamic experiments, heat engine cycles to assist in the study of thermodynamics and a digital hydraulic bench are all items the university intends to invest in as the program’s curriculum begins to take shape. 

Jokisch said due to the overwhelming success of the Industrial Engineering program that arrived at FMU in 2014, mechanical engineering was the obvious next step in expanding the engineering department at FMU.

“We have a lot of demand for engineers in this area,” Jokisch said. “Industrial engineering started here because of that demand. Business leaders in the state started going to President Carter and saying ‘we’d really like an engineering program here at Francis Marion’ so we created the industrial engineering program, and now four years later we’re ready for the next one.”

Jokisch also said mechanical engineering was the appropriate and natural next step for many reasons.

“The reason for mechanical being the next program is because of the way that it pairs with industrial engineering,” Jokisch said. “They have a fair amount of overlap, so when we put the curriculum together, we can take many of the existing courses in industrial engineering and transfer them straight into the mechanical engineering program so that students in both programs will be taking the same classes. Yes, we will need to add some unique mechanical courses as well, but that helps us out a lot.”

According to Jokisch, the creation of the mechanical engineering program is expected to resonate with many incoming and future FMU students.

After surveying, Jokisch said the need for the mechanical engineering program at FMU was evident.

“Employers in the Pee Dee region made it clear that there was a need for this program, Jokisch said. “We surveyed area employers in the Pee Dee and asked them about mechanical engineers. We asked if they were having trouble hiring them, and also asked if they were having trouble retaining those that they do hire, and both times the answer was yes. They tend to hire mechanical engineers coming from another part of S.C. or even another state,  and we really want to provide mechanical engineers that want to stay and work here.”

The mechanical engineering program has a projected start date of January 2020. This date is contingent on pending approval of the curriculum by the FMU Board of Trustees and the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education.