Cedarville’s school of engineering celebrated the 20th anniversary of its first graduating class this school year. Known as the department of engineering until this year, the university recently changed its title to the school of engineering.
Robert Chasnov, dean of the school of engineering, said he has witnessed many changes and developments throughout his time here.
In 1990, Duane Wood, the academic vice president at the time, had the vision to start an engineering department at Cedarville. Chuck Allport was hired as a staff member the same year to manage the initial stages of the electrical and mechanical engineering programs.
With an Air Force background and numerous local connections, Allport helped Cedarville’s engineering program get a strong start, Chasnov said. He became acting chair of the department in 1991 and was appointed the director of engineering programs in 1992 when Larry Zavodney became the chair.
At first, the only engineering specialties offered were mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. The first graduating class consisted of 24 students evenly split between the two majors. Chasnov came to Cedarville in 1991 as the first mechanical engineering faculty member hired. He taught sophomore year courses to the first class of graduates.
As more students came to Cedarville for a Christian environment and upstanding engineering education, the department expanded, taking on new faculty and majors, Chasnov said.
The mechanical and electrical engineering majors became accredited in 1995; the computer engineering major was added in 2002 and accredited in 2006; and the computer science major moved from the science and math department to the engineering department in 2005. By 2010, engineering was the largest department on Cedarville’s campus, with 375 students.
Chasnov transitioned in 2000 from a faculty member to the assistant to the chair, first to Larry Zavodney and later to Sam Sangregory. His new position was more administrative, he said, and he served as a support to the faculty and students.
In 2013, Chasnov became chair of the engineering department. He said his hours are now split between teaching and administrating, as he serves as the first dean of the school of engineering.
“The classroom experience is always fun to interact with the students in areas where I’m really passionate,” he said. “The students kind of pick up on that, and each faculty member has their own expertise and passion,” he said. “I like that aspect, where we are free to express our passion for our fields of expertise.”
The engineering facilities also experienced changes as most of the classrooms in the Engineering and Science Center were recently transformed into laboratories.
The school offered major-specific degrees to the mechanical, electrical and computer-engineering students when these majors were accredited. Instead of receiving a generic BSE upon graduation, these students would receive a more specific degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering or a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering.
A student’s experiences
In 1994, Ryan Burkhard came to Cedarville to study mechanical engineering in Cedarville’s relatively new engineering department. When searching for colleges, he said, he found that few Christian universities offered engineering degrees. His father had a doctorate in engineering and taught at Wright State. When the father and son visited Cedarville, both were impressed by the challenging and hands-on engineering curriculum.
Burkhard said he once compared his coursework at Cedarville with that of a friend in MIT’s mechanical engineering department, and the curriculum was the same, course for course. He said that Cedarville’s engineering programs are challenging, high caliber and world-class.
After four years at Cedarville, Burkhard received a job offer from Proctor and Gamble and has been there for 16 years, working in Germany, Louisiana and now Cincinnati. He and his wife met at Cedarville, he said, and have stayed connected to the school through homecoming and the alumni board.
Burkhard now recruits students for P&G’s internship program and job positions. He said he encourages students to take advantage of Cedarville’s opportunities to get involved and participate in fun activities.
Competitive engineering teams
Chasnov said Cedarville’s high quality and successfully competitive engineering teams set Cedarville apart from other schools. Cedarville has participated in Aero Design, primarily a mechanical engineering competition, since 1992. The first team, which was composed of all freshman and sophomore students, competed at Daytona Beach. They came in seventh place.
“They were able to compete against schools that had a history of aeronautical engineering and mechanical engineering and do very well in that competition, even at the sophomore level,” Chasnov said.
Students compete annually in SuperMileage to build the best cars based on fuel efficiency, energy efficiency and gas mileage. SuperMileage has been a large part of Cedarville’s engineering experience for many students since the first sophomore class participated in 1991, Chasnov said. The team won first place in the competition in 2000. Burkhard was a member of the team in his sophomore and junior years. The SuperMileage team is now headed by Larry Zavodney.
Cedarville has also brought teams to the Solar Boat competition for which students build and race boats that must use renewable energy and stand the endurance test of the race. Cedarville’s team has won first place seven times, advised by Timothy Dewhurst, a senior professor of mechanical engineering.
Chasnov said, “That’s something that Cedarville is known for — the high quality of the project work that we do for our students.”
A year from now, Chasnov said, Cedarville plans to add a civil engineering program as part of its desire to expand and diversify its programs.
Kjersti Fry is a freshman pharmacy major and reporter for Cedars. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and she enjoys playing the piano, playing ultimate frisbee and spending time with friends and family.