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Engineering innovation series set


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Rudy Smaling knew that Cummins’ engine technology and associated components were getting more complex.

The executive director of Systems Engineering at Cummins Inc. saw a need to train company engineers beyond individual specialties and concentrate more on overall innovation.

The result of that vision is a series of four noncredit courses at IUPUC, 4601 Central Ave., that people can take independently or consecutively to earn professional certification in systems engineering, said Susan Sullivan, IUPUC’s director of communications and marketing.

The first and only course available now is the Workshop on Innovation and Creativity. It will be 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 5-9 in CC Room 170 of the IUPUC campus.

People do not have to be college students to participate. Employees from Cummins, LHP Software and other local companies already have signed up, and openings remain, regardless of where those employees work.

Future courses will deal with product planning/development, systems architecture and systems engineering.

“Just because we have the best pieces of everything doesn’t mean the overall system performs as well as it could,” Smaling said. “That’s what we’re trying to address.”

Dan Fant, director of the mechanical engineering program at IUPUC, said Smailing approached IUPUC about helping Cummins meet its training goals. IUPUC obliged, given its mission to develop programs aligned with workforce development needs identified in the community.

Fortunately, the model already existed for how to teach people to think in more innovative ways for product development.

Jonathan Weaver, professor of the mechanical engineering department at the University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit, began a program about 16 years ago at his school that he modeled after an existing program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He will bring his expertise about systems engineering and product design to Columbus as instructor for the first workshop.

Weaver said an example of how workers can be trained to think in innovative ways could be found in Japan. He said engineers there struggled to figure out a way to make its new speed train run more quietly. They ended up patterning their design after an owl, which hunts at night and is able to quietly swoop in on its prey.

“It’s about opening your mind,” Weaver said. “It’s about teaching people how to think in a more structured, repeatable way to develop new ways to solve problems.”

Smaling said Cummins, recognizing the need for a more cohesive approach to design, has sent six engineers in the past five years to MIT to get the special training.

However, he added that Cummins has hundreds of engineers locally who would benefit from the training. He said the biggest obstacle to getting that training until now has been the fact that MIT is nowhere near Columbus.

He said about 20 Cummins engineers have signed up for the first workshop at IUPUC with others likely to come.

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