Gordon Prize Awarded to Dean Ottino

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by Tom O’Donnell

The National Association of Engineering announced in early January that the 2017 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education will be awarded to Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University.

Mr. Ottino developed a program known as Whole-Brain Engineering that merges rational and creative brain skills to help cultivate future engineering leaders who can tackle global problems. (To read the article, click this link.)

The McCormick School of Engineering and Dean Ottino have been enthusiastic supporters and sponsors of the Northwestern University Solar Car Team (NUsolar) since 2005.

Dean Ottino supports NUsolar for many reasons. One strong reason is because team members are taught important skills to succeed in a competitive economy, such as teamwork, creativity, problem solving, and operating within budgets and deadlines. By learning these important skills, team members become valuable commodities to future employers.

Another reason for his support is the team’s diversity. Members come from all areas of expertise, including but not limited to mechanical and electrical engineering, computer science, economics, and journalism. The team itself is also composed of international and domestic students, which produces a diverse community filled with different ideas that might not have been thought of in a more homogenous setting. Dean Ottino also likes that the team is developing sustainable energy to help solve the global energy crisis.

All three parts of Dean Ottino’s Whole-Brain Engineering strategy (design, entrepreneurship, and leadership) are used by the team to help accomplish their goals. For example, mechanical and electrical engineers design and build the solar car. The business team uses entrepreneurial skills to apply for several grants a year and maintain good relations with NUsolar’s many sponsors. This highlights the importance of communication and writing skills– two softer skills that Ottino stresses in Whole-Brain Engineering. The project manager and advisors manage the team, which provides a great opportunity for leadership. Through the several skills employed in NUsolar, team members gain a distinct advantage over their competition when it comes to landing a job after graduation, with a 100% job placement rate for alumni team members.

By using Whole-Brain Engineering, NUsolar exemplifies the next generation of engineers working to tackle society’s greatest challenges. A big part of their work is to develop ideas that will lead to a sustainable planet and increase people’s knowledge of the feasibility and benefits of green energy. For example,One fact is that their electric car motor is four times more efficient than standard gas motor.

NUsolar uses multiple ways to increases people’s awareness of solar power benefits by giving presentations, displaying the car at events on and off campus, and participating in the annual solar car race. The team gives presentations at local schools to share cutting edge information with the goal of inspiring future students to enter STEM fields and help solve society’s greatest challenges. At outreach events, an information table is set up along with visual aids like PowerPoint, poster boards, car parts, and brochures. Recently NUsolar representatives gave presentations at two middle schools, and also displayed the car at events such as the Green Living Expo. People gravitate to the visually stimulating car, taking pictures and asking questions.

Thanks to Dean Julio Ottino’s innovative Whole-Brain Engineering strategy, NUsolar members have the advantage of practical experience in business operations. As mentioned earlier, 100% of NUsolar members acquire jobs soon after graduation. This just goes to show that Dean Ottino’s Whole-Brain Engineering methods are more than successful, as the members of NUsolar develop an edge over the competition in whatever career they choose to pursue.

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