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UNC Charlotte: Empowering 21st century applied energy and electromechanical engineering graduates

Smitali Patnaik was looking for opportunities to upgrade her skills in the field of energy and renewables when she discovered the MS in Applied Energy and Electromechanical Engineering (AEEE) programme at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte).

“I chose this programme because I needed coursework that can broaden my knowledge about the industry and offer more ‘applied’ aspects to engineering knowledge,” Patnaik says. “I noticed that AEEE provided me opportunities to focus on pure engineering, techno-commercial aspects, and add technology elements to my current engineering knowledge.”

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UNC Charlotte students benefit from customisable modules that allow them to explore various STEM disciplines. Source: UNC Charlotte

The learning opportunities at UNC Charlotte helped her step out of comfort zone and led her to pursue something challenging. Patnaik would go on to engage in graduate research and work in the renewables sector, focusing on power plant performance and techno-commercial risks — something she had dreamt of doing. “My time at UNC Charlotte prepared me with a solid understanding of the industry. Throughout my thesis, I acquired various writing and presentation skills and received valuable feedback that assisted me in producing high-quality work in my professional endeavours.”

In addition to Patnaik, UNC Charlotte consistently produces skilled and versatile engineers each year through its AEEE programme. Take Christopher Benfield, another graduate of UNC Charlotte, for example. Benfield who is a Future Tech Marketing Engineer at HP credits the AEEE programme for propelling him into a great career right after graduation. “The top three skills I gained at UNC Charlotte were electromechanical control design, engineering documentation and advanced data analysis. Many recruiters view this extra depth of study as a substantial bonus,” he says.

Studying AEEE programme in UNC Charlotte

The AEEE programme is a 30-credit hour engineering programme that is offered by UNC Charlotte’s William States Lee College of Engineering. Here, students can explore the areas of energy conversion, transfer, and conservation, as well as optimal utilisation of resources.

With a diverse student population from all over the world, UNC Charlotte is where students prepare students to thrive in the energy sector in the US and beyond. Their programme equips them with the latest and most sought-after expertise in various areas, including mechatronics, robotics, electromechanical systems, process controls, and machine learning.

To that end, the university provides customisable modules and numerous opportunities for students to explore other STEM disciplines. With a wide range of modules to choose from — including renewable energy, robotics, applied computational methods, system dynamics, and many more — UNC Charlotte aims to cater for as many career goals, interests, and pathways. This way, all AEEE students will be better prepared no matter where they end up professionally, as evidenced by a recent survey of alumni conducted by the College of Engineering. The survey reported high satisfaction with the quality of education and the preparedness of programme graduates.

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Students can collaborate with researchers and industry partners to tackle real-world challenges. Source: UNC Charlotte/ Facebook

AEEE students get a multidisciplinary education, with three delivery options: Thesis, Project, or Exam, all involving core and elective courses, plus a capstone experience. By undertaking a thesis, students can conduct research on an approved topic, translate findings into a written thesis and deliver an oral defence of their research to a Master’s Committee. For those who are keen on a more traditional graduate route, you can either choose between a comprehensive examination or a non-thesis research project.

Experiential learning and exceptional facilities

One notable reason why UNC Charlotte engineering graduates thrive in their careers is thanks to the experiential learning they receive at the university. Here, the programmes include high-impact learning practices based on real-world engineering scenarios. All assignments and projects encourage collaboration, especially since succeeding in a professional environment requires plenty of it.

That’s not all. Students also have all the space and support they need for a seamless learning experience. They can access 19 state-of-the-art laboratories to support research and academic activities, enabling them to acquire practical, hands-on experience in performing tasks commonly found within the energy and electromechanical industry. These laboratory facilities provide instructional/research support in the topical areas of robotics, fluids, stress, power systems, digital electronics, microprocessors, PLCs and communications — something thesis students can greatly benefit from.

Casey Nichols, another AEEE graduate who found a job in renewable energy R&D is grateful for the expertise he gained at UNC Charlotte as it helped to set him apart from other applicants.

“I worked as a research assistant, which involved a lot of experiential learning opportunities, and it was extremely valuable for me and I highly recommend it if you are planning on entering the R&D field,” Nichols says.

Thanks to accreditation by the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors, graduates of the William States Lee College of Engineering can take the professional engineering exam in North Carolina, which represents a significant milestone for aspiring engineers. Hence, it’s no surprise that AEEE graduates are ready to join the industry or advanced graduate studies. In fact, some have secured technical and leadership positions in national and international companies, federal agencies, and national labs.

Interested? Click here to learn more about the UNC Charlotte programme.

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