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Engineering
gets $400,000 from GM

By Liz Crumbley

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 06 - October 1, 1998

General Motors (GM), the world's largest industrial corporation and full-line vehicle manufacturer, is giving $400,000 to the Virginia Tech College of Engineering to support undergraduate design projects and to continue the company's funding of scholarships and fellowships for minority and women students.
GM has a long-term relationship with Virginia Tech that includes recruitment of university graduates--more than 700 Tech alumni currently work for the company and its subsidiaries--and financial support of educational and research programs. The company has contributed more than $2 million in equipment and cash to the College of Engineering. A recent grant provided $250,000 to fund research related to the "Smart Road" project and minority engineering student involvement in the project.
GM's new pledge will provide $300,000 for equipment and other resources for three undergraduate hands-on project areas--the Joseph F. Ware Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory, the Frith Freshman Engineering Design Laboratory, and the Virtual Corporations Program.
The recently dedicated Ware Lab houses the Car Factory, aircraft projects, the Human Powered Submarine, and Personal Rapid Transit Systems (PERTS), which is one of the virtual corporations. These projects are designed and constructed by undergraduates from all engineering disciplines. The College of Engineering plans for all of the 1,400 to 1,500 freshmen who enroll each year to become involved in hands-on projects in the Frith Lab, which will open later this year in Randolph Hall.
Two virtual corporations will receive GM support: PERTS, which entails the design of a magnetic-levitation rail system for personal vehicles, and the Distributed Information Systems Corporation, a computer-network-based information-storage-and-retrieval system that will provide on-site and wireless remote access to medical data and images for faculty and staff members of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
To support the growth of minority participation in the engineering profession, GM also is providing $100,000 for scholarships and fellowships for minority and women students.
Ron West, general director of Warehousing and Distribution for GM's Service Parts Operation and a 1970 Virginia Tech College of Business graduate, presented a check for $160,000 for the first year of the four-year grant to Engineering Dean F. William Stephenson on September 15. West, who acts as GM's key liaison with Virginia Tech, was on campus with other GM representatives--all Tech alumni--for Engineering Expo '98.
"Undergraduate design projects are important to Virginia Tech as educational tools and to General Motors for well-trained future employees," West said. "Coming back to campus and seeing these projects, I realize how much this type of hands-on work would have meant to me as a student at Tech in the 1960s. When we interview prospective employees around the country, we can tell that students who are involved in hands-on projects are more knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and those are the employees we're looking for."