by Alison Ramsey
Four months ago, there was no Graduate Certificate in Software Systems. Five weeks ago, the computer lab where courses will be taught was bare walls and floor. This week, 20 students begin their classes. If students take the recommended course load, they will have graduated by September.
That's how quickly Concordia can get it together once government approval and the accompanying cash arrive. That's how urgently engineering companies need people skilled in the use of industry software.
What makes this certificate different from five others offered by the Mechanical Engineering Department (aside from its summer schedule) is how keenly focused it is on hands-on training. Students will learn the most current and industry-standard engineering software and, in some cases, beta versions of forthcoming programs.
The new, $70,000 Windows 2000 PC lab is designed with hands-on use in mind.
"The only instrument used in class will be the computer," said Sorin Busuioc, a CAE Electronics engineer who is teaching a course in simulation software. "There will be no pens and pencils. I intend to have a final exam 100 per cent on computer. Everything on my monitor is projected on a large screen so that students can stay in their seats, in front of their computers, and watch what I do on mine."
All five electives, from which students must choose four, rely on students working from real-life examples. The final, core course sees students incorporating their software skills in all areas -- design, programming, computer simulation and element analysis -- to create a team project.
Students in Busuioc's class will simulate from scratch an aircraft system, something such as fuel supply, and part of an auto pilot system. They will do all stages: system analysis, system design, de-bugging and final testing. Instructor Michel Michaud will begin his design class by having students model several mechanical parts, then graduate to a more complex project such as a bearing assembly.
Modeling is widely used in high-tech fields to draw parts on computers linked to machines that create prototypes or produce the actual objects.
"This will give the students a very good edge when applying for jobs," said Michaud, a teacher at Ecole Nationale d'Aˇrotechnique. "Most engineering students have only a little training in 3-D CAD modeling."
Some engineering companies may use software different from that being taught, Busuioc said, "but it's easy to learn the others once you know one. Between MATRIXx and Matlab, for instance, there are a lot of similarities."
Basic courses in Michaud's specialty of CATIA usually last 80 hours, and the intensive Concordia course is closer to 40. After being introduced to the software in class, students will be asked to practise outside of class hours.
While many of the summer students for the initial session are recent graduates, the department anticipates that the classes will soon become as diverse as they are for the other certificate programs. All are geared to working engineers who want to brush up on particular skills.
At an open house held April 10, prospective students lined up for introductions to the department's specialties. The other certificate programs, all of which were introduced in January 1999, are in the five following fields: aerospace, composite materials, controls and automation, theoretical and computations fluid dynamics, and manufacturing systems.
The Department of Mechanical Engineering held an open house recently to provide information about its growing roster of certificate programs. The visitors were taken on a tour of the department's facilities. Left, technician Robert Oliver explains the flight simulator, which incorporates part of an actual Beechcraft Duchess Twin Engine cockpit. Right, he describes the FESTO Programmable Logic Controlled Inspection System in the Fluid Control Lab. Both installations are in the lower level of the Henry F. Hall Building.
Copyright 2000 Concordia's Thursday Report.