Student tech projects receive increased support from business
by: Rene Abadie
HAMMOND – Students studying in one of Southeastern Louisiana University's engineering and technology programs usually complete a successful senior project to demonstrate their knowledge, competence and readiness to enter the workforce.
With limited funds available, however, the students typically seek out materials wherever they can find them, often recycling bits and pieces of equipment to cobble together their creations.
Sebastian van Delden, head of the Department of Computer Science and Industrial Technology, said an initial partnership formed last year with the Harahan-based manufacturing company Laitram, Inc. resulted in the company contributing $5,000 in seed funds to be used in the research, design and construction of required engineering projects.
The company, which operates a conveyor belt manufacturing facility in Hammond and three other facilities in Louisiana, was impressed with the students' work, explained van Delden. So much so, he said, Laitram will double its investment to $10,000 for the coming year.
"We are very pleased so far with the results we are seeing from our partnership with Southeastern," said Franck LaBiche, Laitram's director of human resources. "The engagement, passion and follow-through we have seen from the Southeastern faculty has been amazing, and the level of students participating in the program has been great. I look forward to the coming year and building on the good foundation we have created."
The partnership was forged between the university and Laitram thanks to the assistance of Greater New Orleans Inc., which brought both sides together last year, said Daniel McCarthy, dean of the College of Science and Technology.
"We're happy that Laitram sees the immediate mutual benefits of this partnership," McCarthy said. "Laitram understands the importance of investing in education. The relationship is proving to be a win-win opportunity for both parties."
"Laitram's confidence in the work of our students and faculty is rewarding, and their investment in our academic program is greatly appreciated," van Delden said. "With outside financial support such as this, our students have the means to stretch their imaginations in the development of working projects that help prepare them for growing employment opportunities in the technology sector."
Besides financially supporting engineering technology projects, Laitram also provides paid internships for Southeastern students, some leading to employment opportunities with the company. Four students earned internships last year at various Laitram plants in Louisiana, and others are expected to participate this year. The internships frequently result in full-time hires.
"In addition to the support of senior projects and internships, Laitram professionals participate in our industrial advisory board, work with us on collaborative research grant proposals, provide tours of their facilities for students, and donate equipment to the program," van Delden said. "Our relationship with Laitram is the most formal and holistic one we have."