NMSU engineering programs, lab benefit from Western Refining gift

Members of New Mexico State University’s American Institute of Chemical Engineers Chem-E Car team competed at the 2016 national finals in November. NMSU finished 10th in the world. A portion of a gift from Western Refining will help the team compete at this year’s regional and national competitions. (Courtesy photo) MAR17

WRITER: Tiffany Acosta

Students in the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University will soon have the opportunity to work in an upgraded laboratory, study during a tutoring lesson and travel to national conferences, thanks to a gift from Western Refining.

In February, Western Refining gave the College of Engineering $50,000 to support a variety of programs this year. The Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering received $20,000 to upgrade equipment in the Western Refining Laboratory in Jett Hall. For the past 15 years, Western Refining has supported the university with gifts totaling nearly $684,000, with the College of Engineering receiving $493,000 in that time.

“Western Refining’s gifts have helped us to completely transform the laboratory experience in Chemical and Materials Engineering,” said Department Head David Rockstraw. “The lab used to be a source of frustration for the students, as the equipment was unreliable, outdated and lacking in technology.”

Currently, the lab uses heat transfer equipment – a double-pipe apparatus – that was likely installed in the 1950s or 1960s. Rockstraw said the Western Refining gift is being used to purchase both a shell and tube and a double-pipe (extended tubular) experimental system, with one controller unit for both.

“Employers regularly comment on how well NMSU CHME grads apply the curriculum and hit the ground running on the job site,” Rockstraw said. “This is at least in part due to the hands-on experiences students get in the labs built with Western Refining gifts.”

“Western Refining is very proud to support the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University,” said Gary W. Hanson, Western Refining corporate communications vice president. “The continued development of the College of Engineering at NMSU is important to the future growth of businesses around the region and across the country. Engineering is critical to Western’s business and we are proud to have a number of bright, qualified engineers from NMSU. Western’s success is a direct result of our qualified and committed employees, many of whom come from NMSU.”

With $7,500 from the gift, the Omega Chi Epsilon Society will tutor their fellow engineering students during the 2017-2018 academic year, and a tutoring center will be created in the renovated Jett Hall.

NMSU’s American Institute of Chemical Engineers chapter received $5,000 to compete in the regional and national Chem-E-Car Competition, which is a contest for college students to design and construct a chemical energy power-sourced car.

“The chapter’s funding has slipped in recent years as significant corporations in the industry have quit providing funding due to corporate reorganizations and the drop in gas and oil prices,” Rockstraw said. “This boost put our group back to a level they had achieved a couple years past.”

Additionally, Engineering New Mexico’s 2017 NM PREP Middle and High School Academies received $17,500. PREP is a summer residential camp held at NMSU in June that provides students from grades 6 to 12 the opportunity to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. The two-week program, which allows students to stay on campus and participate at no charge, inspires future college students to explore STEM disciplines at an early age.


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