Auburn and Boeing: Training and Inspiring Future Engineers
The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and Boeing have enjoyed a longstanding partnership in support of Auburn University students. Beyond funding scholarships and supporting underrepresented students and student organizations, Boeing is now providing opportunities for dozens of Auburn Engineering undergraduate students to obtain hands-on, real-world design experience on groundbreaking aerospace projects.
The Industry Design Experience for Auburn Students, or IDEAS, program currently employs nearly 50 students through the university who are working on critical projects such as NASA’s Space Launch System core stage and exploration upper stage; the U.S. Air Force’s new digitally designed, built and tested T-7A advanced trainer; upgrades to the F-18 fighter jet and the B-1 bomber.
Students are issued a badge, computer and email address just like onsite Boeing employees, and some even have the opportunity to earn security clearances and work at Boeing facilities during summer or holiday breaks. The university provides a dedicated secure workspace for the students in the program.
Pictured above (from left) are: Steve Taylor, interim dean; Sushil Bhavnani, Henry Burt Professor of Mechanical Engineering and IDEAS program director; Samantha Allbrook, IDEAS program administrator; Natalie Anderson, IDEAS program student team lead; Ken McCormick, director of innovation, Boeing; David Thrasher, senior special projects manager, Boeing; and Savannah Walker, student program lead business analyst, Boeing. (Photo by Tony Hall)
Sushil Bhavnani, the Henry M. Burt Professor of mechanical engineering who has been a member of the engineering faculty for the past 35 years, serves as the director of the IDEAS program, while Samantha Allbrook serves as the program administrator through the college’s Business Office. To date, more than 150 Auburn students have participated in the IDEAS program with Boeing.
“Boeing is one of the premier aerospace companies in the world, and we are thrilled to have this partnership through the IDEAS program,” said Steve Taylor, interim dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “Our undergraduate students are working on projects that are vital to our country’s success, and this real-world experience will serve them well as they work toward internships, co-ops and full-time employment. When we say we provide the best-student centered engineering experience in America, this is a perfect example of that.”
Ken McCormick, 1990 mechanical engineering alumnus and Boeing’s director of executive transport structures and innovation, said Auburn was selected for this program because of its outstanding reputation across the aerospace industry and it has benefitted everyone involved.
“Boeing is extremely proud of the relationship we have with Auburn University and its College of Engineering,” McCormick said. “Through this strategic partnership, we are training and inspiring the next generation of engineers by providing opportunities for students to gain hands-on engineering experience with real-world innovative products.”
Former IDEAS student employee Sean Farkas, a 2022 mechanical engineering alumnus and current systems engineer/analyst at Torch Technologies, said his experience with the program paved the way for his current position and gave him an advantage over other applicants.
“As an entry level engineer who had multiple job opportunities right out of college, I want to stress the importance of gaining work experience while in school, whether that be through a co-op, internship, research or the IDEAS program with Boeing,” Farkas said. “For me, the IDEAS program provided fantastic opportunities to learn about how a company like Boeing operates, how the Space Launch System is designed and how to think like an entry level engineer when completing work tasks. Learning these skills as a college student furthered my interest in the defense and space industry and gave me the experiences that employers ask about when you’re searching to land a desired career.”