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Engineering the Future

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Olivet Nazarene University mourns the loss of Dr. Kenneth Johnson, chair of the Department of Engineering, who passed away suddenly during a bicycling competition in Michigan. Since joining the Olivet faculty in 2012, he quickly established himself as a valuable leader, mentor, teacher and friend. To learn more about Dr. Johnson’s life and legacy, Click Here.

Among his many noteworthy attributes, Dr. Johnson was an inspiring visionary and an outstanding writer. He authored the following article, which appeared in the inaugural issue of Olivet the Magazine (Dec. 2012)


Engineering the Future

By Dr. Ken Johnson

Without question, the output of engineering activity and creativity is an incredibly powerful force that has the potential to touch, for good or bad, nearly every soul on this planet. Cell phones, computers, cars, electricity, CT scanners, artificial hearts, airplanes, microwave ovens, iPods, iPads, iEverythings — the list goes on and on — were invented by engineers.

But what drives these engineers to invent? What is their purpose, their inspiration, as they face a blank sheet of paper at the outset of a project? Clearly, this is influenced by the individual’s character.

Engineering, at its core, seeks to leverage a deeper understanding of the working of God’s physical creation for some useful purpose. It is during the formation of thoughts and ideas where an Olivet graduate’s character comes roaring into play. Olivet’s engineering program approaches this unique call in two primary ways.

First of all, we are passionate about providing outstanding and rigorous academic training. Our ABET accreditation attests to the fact that we meet the same program standards of other fine engineering programs, such as those found at Purdue University, the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California and the University of Texas. However, we possess an additional strategic advantage that most of our peers do not.

Specifically, at Olivet, we are exclusively dedicated to a robust undergraduate engineering program. Whereas, at many large institutions the primary focus of their faculty is on graduate level endeavors, at Olivet, our faculty is fully devoted to the undergraduate engineer. In practical terms, that means Olivet’s engineering students have superior contact to our experienced faculty. They will also have the opportunity to experience activities like research and scholarship that are typically reserved for graduate level students.

Second, and most importantly, we seek to develop the Christian character of students as they begin to unlock and discover the complexity, power and order of God’s creation. We do this in order that they may early know the potential for bringing hope to those in need.

By the time they graduate, Olivet engineers learn to ask fundamental questions: Will this invention help people? Will it help spread the Gospel? Will it reflect the call to love our neighbors as ourselves? Will it provide hope to someone who has begun to believe there is no hope?

For example, the world of materials engineering is exploding with innovation and radical advances in nanotechnology. We are discovering new materials and applications that defy previous assumptions about material performance limitations. One such material possesses the strength of steel, but is half the weight and three times as hard. A team of senior Olivet engineering students is exploring how this material, with its numerous aerospace applications might be fabricated into new shapes and used as farming implements in developing nations.

Another example taking shape right now is an Olivet Missions in Action project scheduled for this spring. Engineering students are collaborating with a multi-disciplined group of Olivet students to design and construct a state-of-the-art, high-yield produce garden and large agricultural field with modern irrigation. With God’s blessing, the effect of this trip will be felt long after we return, through the sustainable provision of this field for those in desperate need.

Olivet recently entered its third decade of training engineers to enter the world, and we are constantly challenging ourselves to reassess what it means to be an Olivet engineer. With current engineering enrollment equaling over 60 percent of the total number of all engineering graduates over the past 25 years, the program stands poised to make a difference worthy of our calling.

With engineering alumni working across the globe in companies such as Ford, John Deere, Honda, Caterpillar, Alcoa and Apple, the impact and potential continue to grow. These alumni are also creating a continuous loop of feedback and encouragement, many serving as mentors to our current students.

Ask any Olivet engineer what drives them, and in more cases than not, you will get a simple answer. Olivet engineers innovate with a purpose, bringing hope to the world.

View our past issues below: