May 14, 2012

On March 29-31, 2012, 22 schools and more than 200 individuals participated in the Student Professional Development Conference (SPDC) and Early Career Technical Conference (ECTC) held by the District E of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers at the Marriott Hotel in Baton Rouge, La.  The highly successful ASME conference allows engineering students to work on their professional skills and apply engineering knowledge in practical situations.  The conference serves as a learning platform and allows the engineers to develop and showcase their skills, while at the same time, provides a networking environment with many prospective employers in the engineering world.

The industry representatives were joined by a group of LSU mechanical engineering alumni who offered mentorship and advice to the student participants.

The conference began with tours of local industry. The visiting engineering students enjoyed tours of the Entergy River Bend Nuclear Station, the Shell Oil Company Geismar Plant and Shell Oil Company Robert Training and Conference Center. These tours allowed student participants to visit engineering industries in the area and contemplate where they may find themselves after graduation. 

Oral Roberts University mechanical engineering student Joshua Weed remarked, “The industry tours were very worthwhile. We were able to get an inside look at industries that we may work in someday.”

The keynote speaker of the conference banquet this year was Louisiana’s Secretary of Economic Development  Stephen Moret, an LSU mechanical engineering graduate. Secretary Moret’s presentation  “Louisiana: The Next Economic Powerhouse of the South” discussed the impressive economic development of Louisiana.

Moret explained that Louisiana is slated to be an economic powerhouse and that engineering careers will play a very important role in achieving the state’s status. Moret pointed out some of the perceived obstacles that Louisiana faces, including more than 20 consecutive years of population out-migration and a poorly perceived business climate.

Moret went on to clarify that Louisiana was, in fact, an up and coming economic power and rising dramatically in the rankings of several financial periodicals. He continued to explain that careers, specifically engineering careers, will be on the rise in Louisiana and are important to the stability of the state.

Several high level employers in the engineering industry attended and offered insights to the engineering students. 

Shell representative Kevin Reckert remarked about the conference, “The SPDC is very beneficial to the students who attend the conference, but also very beneficial to us (representatives) to attend and talk with these engineering students.” 

Representatives from Shell, Entergy, Schlumberger, FMC, ExxonMobil, Cameron, ConocoPhillips, Nobel Plastics, Baker Hughes, Albemarle and BASF participated in the job fair offered as part of the conference and networked with members and students of the participating university programs. They shared advice with new prospects and assisted with professional and technical skill development, along with interviewing skills.

Albemarle representative Jason Bitting explained, “A conference like this is an invaluable experience for us. We enjoy answering any questions the engineering students may have.”

Competitions were a large part of this year’s Student Professional Development Conference. The competitions were divided into the Old Guard Oral Presentations, the Old Guard Technical Poster Competition, the Old Guard Technical Webpage Competition and the ASME Student Design Competition. In addition to the ASME sessions, mid-term presentations by the 27 design groups of the LSU Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design Program were also held during the SPDC as a special feature.

The Old Guard Oral Presentations are designed to “emphasize the value of an ability to deliver clear, concise and effective oral presentations particularly pertaining to some sphere in which an engineer is, or should be, involved.”

Oral Presentations this year included: “The Intelligent Swing: A Mechanically-Actuated Automatic Bidirectional Swing Mechanism” and “Experimental Measurement of Torque on A Spinning Disk with Low Pressure Gas.”

The Old Guard Technical Poster Competition and Technical Webpage Competition have similar guidelines and are both graded on visual elements and technical content. Winners received prizes at an awards ceremony as well as the opportunity for those who took first place to represent their school at the International Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition (IMECE) conference at a later date.

The ASME Student Design Competition this year was an Energy Relay, which involved each team of competitors using four self-propelled devices to create a relay race in a short amount of time. Each device needed to contain an on-board energy source and trigger the motion on the next subsequent device on the fixed course. The cars were powered by all sorts of propulsion including mechanical fans, balloons, photocells, sonar and infrared laser-guided systems.

LSU mechanical engineering student and LSU ASME president Andrew Reynolds explained, “Despite some teams using similar elements, no two teams had the same design. Some teams’ strengths would be some teams’ weaknesses. It was interesting to see which cars played out better and I was very impressed by the competition.”

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