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Celebrating innovation in educationNovember 28, 2018

On November 29, the Faculty of Engineering celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Bachelor of Technology degree completion programs and the 10th anniversary of the four-year programs at LIUNA Station.

The creation of McMaster’s Bachelor of Technology program (B. Tech.) started with a strong partnership.

In the late 1990s, Mo Elbestawi, who was Mechanical Engineering Chair at the time, developed a plan with Cheryl Jensen, former Dean of Technology at Mohawk College, to provide a degree-level education and employment opportunities to students with an aptitude for more applied and hands-on work.  

“Imagine building collaborative degrees between a world-class university and a progressive college known for its strength in health and technology,” says Jensen. “This was not at all common back then. They gave the best of both – the theory of an engineering degree and the practical, hands on approach of a college diploma.”

“Mo believed in innovative programs to meet the needs of our learners and of employers of our graduates. His vision was bold, insightful and courageous.”

Elbestawi, who is also a former Dean of Engineering at McMaster and the current Director of the W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology, says the fundamental idea of B. Tech. was to have a flexible program that could easily adjust to new technologies and interests – an idea that stays true to this day.

“We want to offer the latest and most advanced learning opportunities for our students and really prepare them to jump into modern industry,” says Elbestawi.

Following the launch of the Manufacturing Engineering Technology degree completion program in 1997, Elbestawi reached out to Art Heidebrecht, former Dean of Engineering (1981-89),to spearhead the expansion of B. Tech.

From 2005 to 2009, Heidebrecht, who is also a Civil Engineering Professor Emeritus, helped to develop the degree completion programs and the four-year programs as the founding Executive Director of the McMaster-Mohawk Bachelor of Technology Partnership.

“A key feature of both the combined degree/diploma programs and the degree completion programs is the inclusion of a stream of management courses and a stream of broadening non-technical courses,” explains Heidebrecht.“We wanted B.Tech. graduates to have some management competencies and also be more fully aware of the world in which they would be working.”

Today, there are over 1400 students enrolled in seven combined degree/diploma programs and degree completion programs, which include Biotechnology, and Automotive & Vehicle Engineering Technology and Software Engineering Technology.

Over the next ten years, Elbestawi plans to integrate current areas of major interests in technology into the curriculum such as smart systems, augmented reality and virtual reality.

He also envisions more collaboration with industry in developing new curriculum, growing co-op opportunities, and inviting key industry leaders to be sessional lecturers.

The Learning Factory, a new facility that simulates the factory of the future, will help facilitate these collaborations. The space introduces advanced manufacturing technologies to students and industry partners and provides the opportunity to work on hands-on projects to improve individual manufacturing processes.

Jensen adds that the key to B. Tech’s success can be attributed to the people involved in making the vision a reality.

“At the end of the day it was all about the people. Mutual respect. Trust. Always looking for solutions to benefit our students. Now, 20 years later, those mutual values have built a solid foundation of excellence and innovation.”