Corporate Partnership Invigorates CIET Program
Partnership, collaboration and innovation are all key to ensuring institutions of higher education are prepared to meet the changing demands of society and the economy. University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) has long embraced the opportunity to partner with industry leaders to provide students with in-depth, relevant career knowledge and experience.
One of the University's strongest business collaborations is with Siemens. Founded in 1847 and headquartered in Munich, Germany, Siemens is a global technology, electrical engineering, and automation powerhouse. The company has collaborated with the UHD Control and Instrumentation Engineering Technology (CIET) program since 2012, when Siemens employee and UHD alumnus, Scott Sorensen, brought the program to the company's attention.
In recent years, there has been a marked shift toward automation in the oil and gas industry to improve profitability and efficiency. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of qualified talent. Siemens recognized the value of investing in UHD and the niche CIET program to develop a future workforce adept in automated technologies.
The CIET program focuses on the application of computer technology and modern electronics to industrial process control and instrumentation systems. Students are immersed in learning about control systems, instrumentation implementation, design and testing.
Since the program's inception, Siemens has provided UHD with more than $150,000 worth of software and hardware, including six, custom-made programmable logic controllers (PLC)—the Simatic S7-300 PLC trainers are widely used in many industry sectors. According to Weining Feng, associate professor of engineering technology, these trainers offer a versatile platform for students to acquire essential knowledge and skills with PLC applications, but most importantly gain a competitive edge as future automation engineers.
The company also collaborated with CIET students, staff and faculty on the design and creation of a flow test/calibration rig for the program's lab in the One Main Building. Michael Nuber, Siemens vice president of sales in process instrumentation, visited UHD and sketched a rough drawing of the machine on a white board in the CIET lab. Nuber was excited by the idea of the design—both for the potential it held to demonstrate the capabilities of Siemens equipment, and its potential to reinforce for students the principles which made the design remarkable.
One year later, after a significant donation of equipment, Nuber was delighted to return to UHD to see his design come to life. Remarking on how well the project evolved, Nuber noted that it was the only model of its type at any university and he was already in discussions with a Siemens partner university in Russia regarding a similar concept.
Not only does the corporate partnership offer UHD students hands-on learning, but it also prepares them for careers.
"The ability to collaborate with Siemens exposes UHD students to how the technologies they learn in the classroom are applied across a broad swath of industries, including chemical plants, manufacturing facilities and even sports and entertainment venues," said Akif Uzman, dean of the College of Science and Technology. "Siemens also sponsored several scholarships, which extends the company's recognition in the community while greatly benefiting UHD students."
In April 2014, Uzman and Feng were recognized for the University's relationship with Siemens at the company's second annual Industry Oil and Gas Conference. The conference provided an in-depth look at how innovative automation and drive technologies solve critical manufacturing challenges facing the oil and gas industry. During the conference keynote address, Wolfgang Rubrecht, Siemens vice president of Digital Factory/Factory Automation, recognized the University's commitment to equipping students for the challenges of today's workforce in oil and gas technology.
According to Uzman, the mutually-beneficial relationship between UHD and Siemens may foster new avenues of collaboration.
"The interesting thing about a partnership like this is the way it grows," he said. "Siemens initiated this relationship around the University's distinctive CIET program, but as Houston's economy changes, the way that companies do business will change as well. Recently, Siemens expressed an interest in the new UHD Master of Science in Data Analytics program, seeing it as an opportunity where new ways of thinking may help the company innovate amid difficult economic circumstances."
If the previous results of this long-standing partnership are any indication, students in the UHD CIET and Data Analytics programs can look forward to a bright future of innovation and collaboration.