École Polytechnique de Montréal inaugurates Québec's first bachelor's degree
program in aerospace engineering

MONTREAL, March 19 /CNW Telbec/ - École Polytechnique de Montréal today officially inaugurated Québec's first bachelor's degree program in aerospace engineering, at a ceremony attended by Michelle Courchesne, the Minister of Education, Leisure and Sport, Lyne Lavoie, Executive Director of the J. Armand Bombardier Foundation, and Maud Cohen, President of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, as well as representatives of the aerospace industry and the first group of students enrolled in the program.

Training specialized engineers to support Québec's leadership role in the aerospace industry

"The success of our aerospace industry depends in part on skilled labour but this industry now faces the challenge of an aging workforce, and ensuring the emergence of a new generation of qualified engineers has become a significant issue," says Christophe Guy, CEO of École Polytechnique.

Industry Canada forecasts that by 2016, only 40% of the current labour force, and less than a third of today's aircraft maintenance engineers, will still be on the job. "With this bachelor's degree program in aerospace engineering, École Polytechnique intends to train a critical mass of specialized engineers to support Québec's leadership role in the aerospace industry and help the industry meet its new challenges, such as the requirements for a reduced environmental footprint, compliance with safety standards and certifications, continuous improvements to production, the need for innovation, and the desire for profitability," adds Mr. Guy, who is also Vice-Chair of the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Québec (CRIAQ).

Québec is a world-class player in the aerospace sector, with sales in excess of $12.4 billion in 2009; this accounts for 60% of Canadian industry activity. The province is home to a large number of prime contractors and Tier 1 aerospace suppliers, all international leaders in their respective markets, including Bombardier Aerospace, Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Ltd., CAE, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Rolls-Royce Canada, General Electric Canada, Héroux-Devtek, Lockheed Martin, Esterline/CMC Electronics and Thales Avionics, as well as the headquarters of the Canadian Space Agency.

A program built in co-operation with major industry players

École Polytechnique's new undergraduate program in aerospace engineering was implemented in partnership with industry. "Bombardier Aerospace, a longstanding partner of Polytechnique, contributed to developing the program," explains Clément Fortin, Director of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and head of the bachelor's degree program, adding: "Bell Helicopter, meanwhile, is providing specialists who will be course lecturers. Collège Édouard-Montpetit's École nationale d'aérotechnique, in Montréal, is also collaborating on the program, providing resources for our students including aircraft, helicopters, and a turbo-prop laboratory."

The program was also organized in collaboration with Polytechnique's Department of Electrical Engineering, which offers a stream in Aircraft Systems, where students can learn about key aspects of avionics and other aircraft systems. It is also receiving support from the Institut d'innovation et de conception en aérospatiale de Polytechnique (IICAP), which provides opportunities for students to take part in industrial R&D projects as well as on-the-job training with aerospace companies in the Montréal region.

The Bombardier Foundation is contributing to the program in the form of a $500,000 donation, which will be used to outfit two simulation and manufacturing laboratories for use by students.

High-calibre students

"With this new program, we plan to train about 60 high-quality engineers every year," notes Mr. Fortin. "Our goal is for them to acquire all the capacities they need to become the industry leaders of tomorrow."

The first group of students in the program, admitted in the fall of 2009, comprised about 60 first-year students, selected from among 160 applicants. They were joined by some 30 second-year students who transferred from the Mechanical Engineering program. The new program's popularity among high-calibre students has once again been confirmed this year, as the Department of Mechanical Engineering has already selected, from among the admission applications received for the next fall semester, 32 students with a score of 32 or better, each of whom will be receiving a Polytechnique Entrance Scholarship.

The first graduates of the Polytechnique bachelor's degree program in aerospace engineering will enter the job market in 2012.

What the initial students have to say

Catherine Déry and Alexandre Dutil, both second-year students who transferred from the Mechanical Engineering program, say they particularly appreciate the strong emphasis on practical teaching in the courses: "I really enjoyed the labs in the course on aircraft characteristics, given at the École nationale d'aérotechnique, where we had the chance to study real aircraft," says Ms. Déry. "Also, in an integrative project course, we built a radio-controlled plane from scratch, and at the same time learned how to draft technical reports. Mr. Dutil, who, besides studying toward the new bachelor's degree, is also taking pilot training, adds: "The courses taught by industry representatives are the high point of the program for me."

Some characteristics of the program

In developing the program, Polytechnique followed the CDIO Initiative, a collaborative international framework for rethinking and making improvements to engineer training that is being undertaken by major universities around the world. The Director of Polytechnique's Department of Mechanical Engineering, Mr. Fortin, is one of the initiative's principal spokespersons in North America. The objective is to structure engineer training around the four fundamental process thrusts of the profession, which provide the abbreviation CDIO: Conceive, Design, Implement, Operate. More specifically, the purpose of the Initiative is to provide a comprehensive universal template that universities can use to build the "ideal engineering program."

Flexibility is the operative word for the training offered by the program. "These future engineers will have to organize and supervise the integration of components provided by different suppliers of structural, propulsion, avionics and software subsystems for aircraft and space exploration vehicles. Their training must therefore equip them to take into account the constraints of each of those specialties," Mr. Fortin emphasizes. In addition to the study of complex aeronautical systems and the latest space technology, the program targets education in social and environmental responsibility, communication and teamwork.

Polytechnique: a benchmark for aerospace engineering education

École Polytechnique boasts all the infrastructures necessary for training engineers specializing in aerospace, as well as years of experience providing education for this industry; these includes its popular Aerospace and Avionics concentrations, already offered as part of several of its bachelor's degree programs. More than 400 Polytechnique graduates are currently employed by Bombardier Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney Canada.

Polytechnique also benefits from the presence of several research professors specialized in the aerospace industry, and a great many partnerships with industry and with other teaching institutions. For the past several years, it has also offered a master's degree in Aerospace Engineering, jointly with other Québec universities and in collaboration with local companies, allowing students to perfect their training.

Aerospace is also a big part of student life at Polytechnique, thanks to the Avion Cargo committee, a group of undergraduate students who design and build model aircraft prototypes, which year after year has emerged victorious in major international design competitions.

About École Polytechnique de Montréal

Founded in 1873, École Polytechnique de Montréal is one of Canada's leading engineering institutions in terms of both teaching and research. It is the largest engineering school in Québec in terms of the size of its student body and the scope of its research activities. École Polytechnique provides instruction in 13 engineering specialties and is responsible for more than one-quarter of Québec's university research in engineering. The school has 230 professors and nearly 6,300 students. It has an annual operating budget of close to $86 million, in addition to a $56.4-million research and infrastructure fund.

A photo of the first group of students in the program, in the company of Minister Courchesne, is available on request.

SOURCE Polytechnique Montréal

For further information: For further information: Chantal Cantin, Director, Communications and Recruitment Office, Ecole Polytechnique, (514) 340-4711, ext. 4970, chantal.cantin@polymtl.ca

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