Cody Howard
School of Engineering

New Westar Energy, KU Engineering partnership benefits student learning

Mon, 04/18/2016

LAWRENCE — Westar Energy and the University of Kansas School of Engineering have collaborated to accelerate and expand opportunities for students in the mechanical engineering capstone program. A gathering to celebrate the official kickoff of the agreement is set for 3:30 p.m. Monday, April 18, at the Structural Testing and Student Projects Facility on KU’s West District.

Under terms of the Westar Energy-KU partnership, Westar will provide a gift of $100,000 to the mechanical engineering department, pledged over five years. This includes $20,000 annually for equipment purchases and to support students or other personnel at the West Campus Student Projects Center.

“The Westar Partnership will accelerate the growth and expansion of our already successful, industry-sponsored capstone projects program,” said Ted Bergman, Charles E. & Mary Jane Spahr Professor and mechanical engineering department chair.

More than 90 students, split into small teams, are working on nearly two-dozen projects for a variety of companies, including Westar, in the 2015-2016 academic year as part of the mechanical engineering capstone experience.

“Students tackle projects that demand innovation, require application of fundamental engineering principles and include real-world constraints such as meeting budgets and schedules,” Bergman said. “This is usually their first opportunity to experience the thrill of delivering engineering results that are relevant in the real world. Our industry-sponsored capstone projects are a tangible example of the importance of KU to our state, region and the nation.”

Westar officials said they are excited by the prospects of the agreement.

“We view our partnership with the KU School of Engineering as an opportunity to develop talent by exposing students to real-world challenges through capstone design projects while familiarizing students with Westar’s brand,” said Jerl Banning, senior vice president of operations and administration for Westar. “Our organizations also can help each other by sharing what we know — research, demonstrations and just getting to know each other better through events and collaboration.”

In addition to the agreement with KU Engineering, Westar has pledged $30,000 to the School of Business. Westar hopes each agreement increases awareness about what the company has to offer to students here in Kansas.

“We’re always on the lookout to add to our talent. Many students think they have to look far away to find a great company. We’d like to share our story with them and let them know we’re a great place to work,” Banning said. “This partnership provides us a chance to meet talented students who are interested in the energy business and let them know they have a great choice right here near KU and an opportunity to work with an innovative company providing real value to its customers.”

The gift counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks support to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.

The campaign is managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

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