Engineering Exam Met Its Match with Loras Seniors

BY Clare Horst ('11)

Six Loras College seniors beat the odds this year in the engineering department. Each year, senior engineering students at Loras undertake a difficult final exam for the completion of the engineering curriculum. The test is extremely demanding, with a historical passing rate of only 50%. But this year, all six of the senior engineering students at Loras passed the test, making it a first for Loras. The seniors include Tyson Beckman (Hampton, Ill.), Mark Kapraun (Harvard, Ill.), Mark LeRoy (Algonquin, Ill.), Jacob Lucas (Holy Cross, Iowa), Santiago Mejia (Cali, Colombia) and Crystal Strauch (Mount Vernon, Iowa).

The exam the Loras students take is a portion of a nationally standardized test: the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. “The actual FE exam is an eight-hour affair with a break for lunch, akin to similar exams such as the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for example,” said Kenneth McLaughlin, Ph.D., professor of physics and engineering. “We subject our graduating seniors to the morning section of this exam, arguing that four hours is enough to ask as a final exam in our EME 490 Engineering Review and Assessment course.”

The official exam is administered by the National Council for Engineering Examiners and the passing rate is historically 50%. This has been the historical passing rate at Loras College as well, but that changed this year. “All of the studentspassed this exam outright, which has never occurred with our seniors,” said McLaughlin.

“The FE exam can be a grueling ordeal to both take as well as to prepare for, as anyone can surely imagine,” explained McLaughlin. “It covers all parts of the engineering curriculum (statics, dynamics, mechanics of materials, electric circuits, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics) as well as all of the mathematics and chemistry courses that comprise this curriculum. It also includes economics (engineers have to be able to factor in the cost of their designs) and—as I like to brag about due to usually stellar performance in a content area that is dear to our campus—ethics!”

“Preparing for the exam was a long process but one that paid off,” said Strauch. “We spent all four years here at Loras preparing for this exam in taking our engineering classes and then we reviewed the last two semesters in a separate class.”

“I was very happy and relieved to learn that I had passed,” said Lucas. “This has given me the confidence to take the full eight-hour FE exam and work toward obtaining my professional engineer license.”

McLaughlin explained that he did not change much in the format of the course compared to years past. “I think the most significant reason for explaining the excellent results for this year’s seniors is that this was a high-caliber group, willing to work to set the standard for classroom performance. I am also proud that the highest-scoring student on both the pre- and post-test was our only graduating female.”

McLaughlin also praised the faculty in the engineering program. “I think Loras has a dedicated faculty in place today,” he said. Strauch agreed with McLaughlin. “[Dr. Merkel and Dr. McLaughlin] did a great job preparing us for this exam,” she said. “I wish everyone had their drive and willingness to help students in their learning.”

“I predict that we will start to see further advancements in our engineering program,” said McLaughlin.
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