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Bell Helicopter helps WTAMU engineering programs grow

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CANYON - West Texas A&M has always been known for agricultural sciences, but now the university is growing a whole new kind of crop.

"Because our area is so unique, it's better if you can basically grow your own engineers," Interim Director of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, Emily Hunt said.

Engineering is the fastest growing program at WTAMU and more changes are on the way.

Hunt says there is a huge need for engineers in the panhandle, and WTAMU is filling that need with growing enrollment in mechanical, civil, and environmental engineering degree plans.

Mechanical engineering first came to WTAMU in 2003. The school became accredited for it in 2006. In 2010, the school added a civil engineering program, and this year they added environmental engineering.

"We're hoping to bring in more females with the environmental degree," Hunt said.

Now the university is looking to add an electrical engineering program,  but they need a lot more funding to do that. WTAMU has bids in for state grants that would allow them to renovate the second floor of their building to make room for electrical labs and classroom space.

"It was interest from local industries that helped us get started," Hunt said. "So support not only financially, but what need these students to be able to do and how we want them to be able to perform... Bell Helicopter has been great."

Bell Helicopter
has helped the program out since the beginning by funding much of the department's equipment, even an entire lab. The school offers internships and workshops exclusive to WTAMU. A Bell engineer started teaching WTAMU's first aerodynamics class this semester.

This month, Bell named Matt Jackson the Bell Helicopter Professor of Mechanical Engineering, making him the main liaison between the company and the university.

"We have now risen to be their premiere university of employment," Jackson said. "When they're looking to hire a position, they come to us first."

Jackson says the additional funding will allow the creation of a WTAMU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a national non-profit that allows students to create infrastructure for poverty-ridden communities around the world.

Jackson will meet with representatives from Bell on Thursday to plan even more improvements.

"One of the things we're going to be talking about is lab equipment, student internships, student employment of current students, relationships on student projects, seniors on projects," Jackson said.

Because of the unique relationship WTAMU has with Bell and other industry leaders, engineering is a degree that can almost guarantee a job after graduation.

"My advice to high school students... keep up with your math," Hunt said.

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