WILHELM ‘ALEX’ FRIESS

WILHELM ‘ALEX’ FRIESS

BRUNSWICK — The University of Maine announced Wednesday that Wilhelm “Alex” Friess, Ph.D., will lead the college’s new engineering program, which is scheduled to start this fall at Southern Maine Community College’s Brunswick Landing campus.

Dana Humphrey, dean of UMaine’s College of Engineering, said Wednesday that Friess will start work in his new post on April 1.

Friess, born in Germany, will come to the Brunswick campus from Dubai, where he is currently in charge of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s ( RIT) Residential Energy Center in Dubai.

Friess holds master’s and Ph.D. degrees in aeronautical engineering from RIT. He has led the school’s Dubai program since 2009, according to a UMaine press release.

Humphrey said Wednesday that Friess’ past experience starting engineering programs, complemented by his teaching experience, was key in his selection as the first director of the Brunswick program.

In addition to his teaching experience, Friess was a member of a seven- person team that designed South Africa’s sailboat for the 2007 America’s Cup competition, Humphrey said.

The new program in Brunswick will aim to integrate topics in math, science and technology into a single two-year curriculum, taking a projectoriented approach to teaching engineering rather than teaching individual academic disciplines in separate courses.

“Students will see realworld projects right from the start,” Humphrey said.

After two years in Brunswick, students would transfer to the University of Maine or the University of Southern Maine to complete requirements for a four-year degree in civil, mechanical, electrical or computer engineering.

Through a collaboration with Southern Maine Community College, the university also aims to attract more students by offering a preengineering program that will cater to students who need more preparation in math before launching into engineering studies.

Janet Sorter, vice president and dean of academic affairs at SMCC, said Wednesday that both programs are designed to increase the number of engineers in the state.

“We’re creating a pathway for those who may have chosen engineering late,” Sorter said.

The demand for more engineers in Maine, Humphrey said, exists. Of the university’s 160-member 2010 graduating class, Humphrey said, 73 percent found their first engineering jobs in Maine.

“It’s incumbent upon Maine to have that supply of engineers,” Humphrey said.

On Wednesday, UMaine officials held informational sessions for incoming students at the Brunswick Landing campus as well as an informational session for area high school guidance counselors at the Fairfield Inn in Brunswick.

Mike Halmo, one of four counselors at Brunswick High School, said that the school’s counseling department was “very pleased to see this collaboration so close to home.”

Halmo said he thinks the school’s hands-on approach to teaching engineering could appeal to students who learn best outside a classroom and that the pre- engineering course could provide a starting point for students who found math to be a “ stumbling block” in high school.

The pre-engineering program, Halmo said, “ is an opportunity to test the waters at a lower level and see how things go.”

The program is now accepting students for classes beginning this fall, Humphrey said.

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