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New collaboration helps engineers master calculus

Between South Central College, Minnesota State Mankato

New collaboration helps student engineers master calculus.

By Tanner Kent, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 9/22/2011]

Little can be done to make calculus more exciting.

The headache-inducing branch of mathematical the­ory is a linchpin in many engineering degrees. In fact, most engineering stu­dents spend their first years of college learning little else. Some get so burned out they give up on engi­neering.

South Central College has the cure.

SCC officials announced Wednesday that the college is implementing a new engi­neering degree — called engineering foundations — for the 2012-'13 school year.

The 60- credit associate’s degree is designed to be transferable to four-year programs and an agreement is already in place with Minnesota State Mankato. But the showpiece of the new degree is a fabrication lab that features state-of­-the-industry equipment that will allow SCC engineering students to apply mathe­matics principles toward real-life problems. In essence, the lab will give engineering students a little tinker time.

The program also will give students a little more attention than they might receive at a larger institu­tion.

Calculus courses at the University of Minnesota can have 300 students.

Conversely, SCC’s program will begin with about 20 students and a tutoring pro­gram in place to ensure their success.

The col­lege already has purchased some of the equipment — such as a 3D scanner and printer, laser cutter, mill and lathe — but has not yet opened the lab. Though SCC did receive a $50,000 grant from the Minnesota Center for Engineering & Manufacturing Excellence (at Minnesota State Mankato) to purchase some equipment, the college is still securing funds to purchase more.

There is only one other such lab in Minnesota (at Century College), and the concept was borrowed from a model pioneered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

SCC plans to eventually allow local businesses and entrepreneurs to use the lab as well.

SCC is anticipating 20 or more students for the fall 2012 debut and is accepting applications for the program. Those who want more information may email

For the complete story, see Thursday's Free Press print edition, or go to the e-edition at

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