Industry for the Advancement of WSU Composite Material Engineering Scholarship (formerly SPE)

Industry for the Advancement of WSU Composite Material Engineering Scholarship (formerly SPE)

In the mid-1980s, the need for talented, educated engineers in the Winona area was becoming increasingly more important, largely due to the rapid growth of RTP Company, a local business that develops thermoplastic compounds, and several other plastics companies. There was also a need for testing equipment and services, but the costs were high. Rather than each company purchasing their own equipment, they approached WSU with the shared idea of building a testing center on campus. In 1987, WSU established the Composite Materials Technology Center (COMTEC), a laboratory that could provide testing services for the local companies, and employ students to run it.

The arrangement worked well, but the need for educated engineers became even greater. Once again, local composite companies met with Dr. Dennis Nielsen of WSU to outline a program specifically for Composite Materials Engineering. At the same time, Governor Rudy Perpich was looking for rural areas of the state that were ripe for growth and in need of educational funding. With the legislative help of State Representative Gene Pelowski, Jr., state funding was secured and the Composite Materials Engineering Program was launched in 1989.

The partnership between WSU and the composite industry has continued, including the establishment of a scholarship for Composite Materials Engineering students. In early 2002, Joe Cameron and Larry Rupprecht of RTP Company, along with Dr. Parsi, arranged for an annual golf outing event through the local branch of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE). The first two events were financially successful, and the first $500 scholarship for a Composite Materials Engineering student was awarded in 2003. “The financial success of the golf event continues, as does thirteen consecutive years of beautiful weather on the day of the event,” says Rupprecht. “We’ve had fantastic support from the local composite community and their supplier base.”

Scholarship contacts are Laura Miller and Larry Rupprecht.