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Clarkson Students Team Up With Silicon Power To Work On R&d Project

Clarkson University freshmen majoring in Interdisciplinary Engineering and Management (IE&M) had barely moved into their dorm rooms this fall when they were handed a real-life research and development problem to solve as part of a year-long, project-based IE&M course.

Working in teams, the students have been researching and formulating solutions to a technical problem related to power generation that was submitted by Silicon Power, an industry leader in the field of power quality engineering.

Additional power demands in new cars—cell phones, CD players, and computer readouts—have prompted the automotive industry to pursue a replacement for the traditional 12-volt battery-centered electronics system in cars. One of the technical problems associated with a transition to a 36-volt system is power transfer. The students have been asked to develop a 36-volt power transfer device that will store power and distribute it as needed. They will present their findings to Silicon Power executives in late April.

“Giving our new students a research and design project that has real-world applicability is one of the hallmarks of the IE&M program,” said Michael Ensby, director of the IE&M program. “The freshmen are asked to tackle complicated projects that even some faculty members think may be too difficult for them. They learn through trial and error. They formulate ideas, initiate discussion and research, plan, create and recreate workable designs, purchase supplies and actually build the devices. Everything they do is reinforced with concepts presented in the classroom. What better way is there to learn?”

Student Stephanie Niewieroski (’05) agreed. “Working on a real-life design project has allowed me to see all aspects of a large-scale project from the business and marketing side to the engineering, designing and construction of a product. Another advantage of the project is that it forces me to think outside the textbooks and really approach the problem the way an actual engineer or manager might.”

The first program of its kind, IE&M was introduced in 1954 to meet the growing demands of industry. It utilizes Clarkson’s traditional strengths, stressing engineering principles in conjunction with quantitative and qualitative managerial preparation. IE&M majors receive a thorough grounding in engineering, business and science, giving them a broad educational foundation and a competitive edge in industry.

The success of IE&M graduates is another indicator that the broad–based curriculum and unique combination of classroom and experiential learning is working. IE&M majors have a 97 percent placement rate following graduation. Recruiters from industry leaders such as General Electric and Applied Industrial Technologies rate Clarkson as one of the top universities for discovering new talent. 

“Clarkson IE&M students are multi-talented, trained to work in teams and open to new ideas,” said John R. Morgan, Silicon Power’s Vice President of Manufacturing and a Clarkson IE&M alumnus, who will be returning to Potsdam to attend the student presentations in April.  “Building a relationship with the students early on works to our advantage. We get to develop and recruit new talent, and the students get an incredible training and learning opportunity. It is a win-win situation and one we are pleased to participate in.”

Silicon Power’s sponsorship of this year-long partnership is an example of academic excellence initiatives in the Campaign for Clarkson, an ambitious fundraising campaign launched in 1998, that seeks to raise $70 million over seven years.  To date, the Campaign has raised $57 million, or more than 80 percent of its goal.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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