Investing in Innovation: The pioneering spirit of HPU’s Webb School of Engineering

This story is featured in the Spring 2020 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below HPU’s Webb School of Engineering invests in students’ futures.

Inside a completely transformed facility, High Point University’s first cohort of engineering majors find opportunities they wouldn’t find elsewhere.

Their academic school — the Webb School of Engineering — is a part of HPU’s Innovation Corridor. The corridor represents a $250 million investment in faculty, technology and facilities that foster the university’s STEM programs.

They learn from Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, HPU’s Innovator in Residence who serves on the engineering school’s advisory board.

They place highly in national cybersecurity competitions, receive one-on-one mentorship from their professors and have the chance to be true pioneers in the world of engineering.

Just ask Aidan Kelley, a sophomore and one of HPU’s first-ever engineering majors.


Born to be an Engineer

Before he could even walk, Kelley was bringing his dreams to life. From creating small cities with LEGOs and Thomas the Tank Engine pieces, to helping his dad renovate their family home, the inquisitive, problem-solving nature intrinsic to engineers has always been with him.

Kelley always knew he wanted to come to HPU. However, when he heard the university was starting an engineering program, he jumped at the chance to be one of the first electrical engineering students.

“I went for it. I knew I wanted to do something hands-on in the world of science, and engineering has a lot to offer,” says Kelley. “Engineering affects every aspect of our lives.”

As part of HPU’s Innovation Corridor, the Webb School of Engineering prepares students for the world as it is going to be.

“In the time I’ve spent on campus, I’ve found that transformation at HPU is second nature,” Wozniak says. “HPU students will be builders. That makes the Webb School of Engineering a great addition to HPU’s excellent academic programs.”

Creating New Curriculum

Dr. Michael Oudshoorn, founding dean, and Dr. Claire McCullough, licensed professional engineer, professor and founding chair of electrical and computer engineering, agree.

As Herbert Hoover once stated, “to the engineer falls the job of clothing the bare bones of science with life, comfort and hope.”

With a combined experience of over six decades as educators and more than 15 years each working in accreditation, Oudshoorn and McCullough look forward to growing the Webb School of Engineering and creating the innovators of tomorrow.

“Engineering tops the list of majors with the highest average starting salary,” says McCullough. “From NASA to Disney, engineers have the opportunity to work anywhere in the world, in any industry.”

While many schools have general engineering programs, High Point University provides discipline-specific degrees.

“This requires meeting more stringent accreditation criteria, and I regard it as a more valuable degree,” says McCullough.

“Having discipline-specific programs opens doors for our students and makes them more employable.”

Combining the existing computer science major with new discipline-specific programs in computer engineering and electrical engineering, Oudshoorn notes how they all play a critical role in shaping our everyday lives but must also work together.

“Think about your phone,” says Oudshoorn. “All of the software is developed by those specializing in computer science. The hardware, like the chips and circuits, are produced by the computer engineers, while the electrical engineer brings the device to life with power, antennas and telecommunication systems.”

You can’t build a device that doesn’t require a large number of disciplines talking to each other. That’s why it’s important for students to collaborate and have a well-equipped space to do so.

“All of us in the program get to decide how we can be successful. Like right now, we’re creating a makerspace to help educate new engineers coming behind us,” says Kelley.

“There’s a lot of freedom in knowing that the school has created the best environment and given us the tools we need to be successful.”

Already finding ways to utilize the makerspace, it’s typical to find students working on class assignments or experimenting with the state-of-the-art equipment, from 3D printers to computer-controlled routers.


Rising to the Occasion

Ethan Shealey, a sophomore computer science major, has already experienced how having resources like these facilities can lead to success. He, along with other computer science students, including Ty Carlson, a senior computer science and physics double major, competed in the 2019 Governor’s Cybersecurity Talent Competition using the knowledge they acquired in the computer science program.

In the first round of the cybersecurity program, Carlson received a perfect score.

Meanwhile, Shealey was one of 24, out of about 2,300 participating students across the nation, to receive a perfect score in the second round and was awarded scholarship money.

“Ty encouraged me to participate in this competition,” says Shealey. “I’m glad I did because now I have real-world experience that will help me better understand the lessons I will be taught in my engineering classes.”

Students in the Webb School of Engineering can elect cybersecurity as a concentration within the computer science major.

“We are very proud of Ty and Ethan for their achievements in this competition and commitment to understanding cybersecurity,” says Dr. Will Suchan, chair and associate professor of computer science. “Cybercrime is a scourge on modern society that demands intelligent and ethical people to fight back. HPU understands this and has invested in faculty and labs to produce a highly-educated cyber workforce for the future of our state and nation.”

Regardless of whether students prefer computer science, electrical engineering or computer engineering, HPU allows students to hone in on their specific interests.

“I see potential, and I see growth,” says Kelley. “I see the future of our community, our school and other majors. This is our space, and we can make it what we want.”

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