Mechanical Engineering: the path to innovation at UW-Green Bay, Sheboygan Campus

UW-Green Bay student Benjamin Vergunst studies Mechanical Engineering at the Sheboygan Campus. Photo by Josh Buntin, University Photographer

Engineers are still a sought-after group, poised to bring their unique combination of creativity and problem-solving skills to meet the demands of the workforce. 

From working on refrigeration systems to the turbines of aircrafts, mechanical engineering is one of the most versatile and visionary engineering professions, lending itself well to the growing demand for engineers. 

According the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow 10% over the next ten years, a rate that is much faster than most occupations. Over 19,000 mechanical engineering positions are expected to open every year. The story in Northeast Wisconsin is similar to the nation-wide report, with the demand for engineers rising 18% since 2010. Because of this demand, creative thinkers and budding innovators alike have been enrolling at UW-Green Bay to pursue a track in Mechanical Engineering. 

“The Mechanical Engineer is totally related with the development of new technology and new things—we can study many applications,” says Assistant Professor Fernando Cano-Banda, who teaches in the Mechanical Engineering program at UW-Green Bay, Sheboygan Campus. They focus on power application, getting physical parts and components to act in the manner desired—and the need for this skill set is high. 

Mechanical Engineers are specially equipped to work in many fields such as machinery, design, controls, vibrations and acoustics, power generation, fluid flow and heat transfer applications, to name a few. 

Ben Vergunst is training to be one of those engineers. He studies mechanical engineering at UW-Green Bay, Sheboygan Campus.  

Join Ben for a tour of the Fluid Dynamics and Thermal Lab at UW-Green Bay, Sheboygan Campus

“I’m a problem solver, so engineering made sense,” he explains. But for him, the move to go back to school wasn’t as simple as the decision to study engineering. Vergunst is a non-traditional student, having spent time working in construction and carpentry, before making the decision to go back to school. 

“It’s not easy to move from a full-time position to part-time. It’s also difficult to be a non-traditional student, where you’re used to working in the industry, and having to go back to school—it’s not an easy step,” he says. This big transition was made easier, though, by having an accessible campus close by. 

“It was critical to have a campus in town, one that was local—that I could study at. I doubt going back would have worked if there wasn’t a local campus,” he says. 

For Vergunst, it is clearly working.  

“He’s a really good student,” says Cano-Banda. “Benjamin–it’s clear he feels confident with his knowledge about science and math. We make decisions based on that knowledge. We need to do calculations, but it’s the decisions that are important. That’s how I know that Ben will be a great engineer, because now he feels confident making those decisions.” 

Cano-Banda also stresses the importance of creativity in the work that mechanical engineers do and works to convey this to his students through homework problems and practical experiences that encourage out-of-the-box thinking. “To be an engineer is not only about being good at math or having a good understanding of science. It also requires leadership and creativity. Creativity is the difference between a good engineer and a great engineer.” 

Vergunst was able to put his mechanical engineering foundations and problem-solving creativity to the test through a key internship opportunity. A colleague Vergunst met through his classes led him to a Kohler Company internship, where he took an active engineering role in the manufacturing process. 

“It was the most pivotal thing in my education career,” says Vergunst. “It got me excited about where things are going with the degree. It’s hard to picture, when you’re in the thick of it, so having an internship or co-op is great. It gets you some hands-on experience and knowledge of what it’s actually like in the field.” 

For Vergunst, his internship helped inform his dream position, which he hopes will be local, staying in Sheboygan while doing a job that allows him a mix of work. “Do design work, be creative, and still be able to be involved with how it’s made and how it’s used in the real-life scenario,” he says. 

Vergunst sets the example for those looking to further their education by going back to school. “It’s the people on the manufacturing floor, wishing to pursue their education—it’s still possible, even if it takes, say a decade, it’s well worth it to take that step, especially if you have a local campus. There are people I work alongside with in their 30s and 40s that are pursuing their education,” he explains.  

The path to higher education looks and feels different for everyone but as Vergunst puts it— “it’s never too late.” 

Photos by Josh Buntin, UW-Green Bay Photographer.

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