Montana State University

MSU engineering professor incorporates elite Boeing training into classroom

January 18, 2011 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service


Ross Snider, electrical and computer engineering professor at MSU, was one of nine people to receive a 2010 Boeing Welliver Faculty Fellowship and the first MSU recipient ever. Snider is just the most recent example of MSU's beneficial relationship with Boeing. To learn more about the relationship between MSU and Boeing, read: MSU, Boeing legacy goes back generations. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).    High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu
BOZEMAN -- A Montana State University electrical and computer engineering professor who received an elite fellowship from Boeing shared his experience with MSU students and faculty this fall and incorporated them into his curriculum.

Ross Snider was one of nine people to receive a 2010 Boeing Welliver Faculty Fellowship from an international pool and the first MSU recipient ever. The fellowship allowed him to shadow Boeing professionals and observe Boeing operations for eight weeks last summer. Snider spent two weeks at the Boeing Leadership Center in Missouri and six weeks at various Boeing facilities in Seattle.

Boeing is the world' leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft combined.

Snider is just the most recent example of MSU's beneficial relationship with Boeing. To learn more about the relationship between MSU and Boeing, read: MSU, Boeing legacy goes back generations.

Snider visited Boeing's gigantic hangars both north and south of Seattle, where he saw jets in all stages of construction. He toured buildings full of flight simulators. He "flew" a Boeing 767 with two student interns from MSU. He met with dozens of senior executives, research and technology managers, professionals and several MSU graduates who work throughout the company. He not only had the opportunity to learn from them, but to give his feedback as well.

He learned, among other things, that Boeing places its most cutting-edge technology in military aircraft and uses the safest, most proven technology in commercial aircraft, Snider said. He observed the opportunities and challenges of working for a corporation that employs more than 158,000 people across the United States and in 70 countries. He saw for himself why so many MSU graduates work for Boeing.

"Any job that you can think of, someone in Boeing is doing it," Snider said.

MSU and Boeing officials estimate that Boeing has hired anywhere between "well over 500" and 1,200 MSU graduates over the years. They come from several MSU departments, primarily in MSU's College of Engineering and College of Business. Several MSU graduates are Boeing executives, and some serve on MSU advisory boards.

Robert Marley, dean of MSU's College of Engineering, said Snider's experience could lead to curriculum changes and new lab activities, lectures and courses for MSU.

"It's just amazing what faculty can bring back to our students from a fellowship like this," Marley said.

Back at MSU this fall, Snider said he would share information about Boeing technology with his students and colleagues. Some of those technologies dealt with products that go into the cabins of commercial airplanes. Other technologies related to embedded computers, software considerations for airborne systems, and programmable hardware for digital computer systems.

While at Boeing, Snider also learned about the 787 Dreamliner that's in the testing stages, but presold to 2017. It's made out of carbon fiber material instead of aluminum, so it's much lighter and stronger than current planes, Snider said. Because of that strength, windows can be significantly larger than current windows. Passengers can push a button to darken or lighten the tint of the window.

"It's a hugely complex business," Snider continued.

Every Boeing 747 contains 6 million parts, half of them rivets, he said. Each part has to go through a qualifying process to ensure that it's safe to fly. Even private suppliers, designers and manufacturers have to prove that they followed procedures that qualify their parts for flight.

His summer at Boeing showed him that MSU graduates are appreciated for their practical skills, extensive lab experience, work ethic and can-do attitude, Snider said. Many MSU students learned to work hard because they grew up on farms and ranches, he said. Because they've worked in laboratories at MSU, they quickly fit in at Boeing.

"Ultimately, there's a match between the cultures of kids coming out of here and Boeing," Snider said. "It's a good match."

Seven of the 2010 Welliver fellows came from the United States and one each from China and Puerto Rico. Eight specialized in engineering and one in computer and information sciences.

"We're giving these selected professors access to our technical and business programs with the intention of helping them educate students - giving students the skills they will need to begin successful careers in engineering, business, manufacturing and technology," said Trina Medley from Boeing University Relations. "These professors are the vital links between Boeing technology programs and the classroom -- connecting industry and academics to continue developing our future workforce."

Approximately 160 university professors have received the fellowship since the program began in 1995, Medley said. Candidates for the program have come from Canada, China, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and the United States. Recipients must be associate or tenured professors who have taught full-time at least five years and are currently teaching undergraduate students.

Snider is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at MSU.

"The potential impact of this program expands beyond the actual eight-week fellowship," Medley said. "It is our hope and intent to build relationships and collaborations that will last long after these professors return to their campuses."

For a related article, see "MSU, Boeing legacy goes back generations."

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu