UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

UHCL will offer mechanical engineering degree beginning fall 2018


A Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering will be offered at University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) beginning fall 2018. UHCL’s request to offer the degree program was approved Jan. 25 by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Originally, students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the field studied in the pre-engineering program for two years before transferring to another school, such as the University of Houston (UH). When funding became available from State Legislature about three years ago for a new STEM building on campus, it helped facilitate the development of a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

A few UHCL students, with their freshmen and sophomore years under their belts, will be able to transition right into the new program their junior year. Incoming freshmen will be starting at the beginning of the program or transferring from other schools and junior colleges.

“Target enrollment for new freshmen the first year is expected to be around 50,” said Ju Kim, interim dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

As the new program gets started, a 10 percent growth per year for the next five years is estimated.

The curriculum proposal submitted to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for the new program was put together by James Dabney, program chair and professor of Systems Engineering. Along with Kim and Dabney, Jeffrey Mountain, program chair and professor of mechanical engineering, and Keith Drake, former visiting assistant professor of software engineering and chair of the inaugural pre-engineering program, worked as a team on the proposal revisions.

Mountain joined UHCL in fall 2017 in anticipation of the new program and said he has continued to develop and tailor it specifically to undergraduates while differentiating it from UH.

“I have made some changes to address what is not just something for regional and the current state of mechanical engineering, but something that will make graduates valuable worldwide and the future trends effecting what mechanical engineers should know 10,15, 20 years from now,” Mountain said.

There is a high demand nationwide for mechanical engineers, and the degree is one of the most popular choices in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Mountain said at his previous universities, incoming freshmen classes were consistently larger than the programs were designed to accommodate.

“Houston is a very large city but has few universities within the city that offer engineering programs,” Kim said. “There is clearly a need for more mechanical engineering programs like what we plan to offer.”

The accreditation process will begin after the first graduating class has completed the program, potentially spring 2020. The university will make a request to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and submit the necessary self-study report and documentation. The board will make a site visit and assess the program, before confirming accreditation the following summer in their once-per-year meeting.

Mountain has experience in the ABET accreditation process, as he was a part of two evaluations in his tenured position at University of Texas-Tyler, and the primary self-study author for reaccreditation as the Department Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Norwich University in Vermont.

UHCL’s new STEM building is expected to be completed on schedule for the start of the fall 2018 semester. It is a vital part of the new program and will house 15 teaching labs including computer labs, material science labs, a thermal fluid lab, a machine shop, a wind turbine, computer-aided drafting and 3D printing. Mountain has been involved in the building process to ensure the needs of the new program are met.

“The new building is an absolute necessity for the program, and facilities are part of the proposals submitted to the State and to SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools),” Mountain said.

Kim expects the new mechanical engineering program to be a success and, with additional awareness and marketing for UHCL, looks forward to serving a wider group of students in the region.