We boarded the buses bright and early on Day Two of the Independent Colleges of Indiana tour and soon arrived at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute. And though the skies were gray and storms threatened the area, the programs at Rose-Hulman were so fascinating and the students who led us on campus tours so full of information, that no one seemed to notice.
Founded in 1874 as the Rose Polytechnic Institute, RHIT was the first engineering school west of the Alleghenies and, from the very first day, the standards of its academic programs were the very highest, with the goal to produce nothing but hard-working problem-solvers who could work in engineering, science, and math fields the moment they received their degrees. Today, RHIT graduates are so highly-sought by employers that career fairs are held every quarter and 90 percent of graduates are employed at graduation with the remaining graduates placed within six months.
Because of its focus on educating students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, RHIT has only 19 majors to offer, but most students select multiple majors because of the number of credits required for graduation and because all freshmen take identical curriculum in their first quarters on campus. This arrangement ensures that everyone begins from the same foundation and, with an academic calendar formatted into the afore-mentioned quarter system (each quarter is 10 weeks long and students take four or five classes per quarter), the format ultimately aids students who want to explore different scientific topics on their way to their eventual career fields.
Hands-on education is also a key ingredient in the RHIT educational system. After all, what’s the point of learning a lot of algorithms and scientific principles if you’re never going to use them in the real world?
The Branam Innovation Center, located right on main campus, is the central hub for all of the RHIT clubs and teams who compete in academically-oriented competitions to perfect their projects and strategies. Have an interest in robotics? Want to build a fast and sleek cement canoe? Dream of assembling your own Grand Prix car or a human-powered vehicle for the future? The Branam Innovation Center is for you. It’s also for you if you need the space and resources to work on an independent project – like additional adaptive technologies for disabled horseback riding programs, for example.
Meanwhile, just down the road at RHIT’s “south campus,” Rose-Hulman Ventures is the engineering consulting company arm of the school that works with real companies to solve their real problems – and get paid for it! In fact, NICO Corporation, an Indianapolis-based company that makes tools for neurosurgery, outsources all of their research and design work to RHIT through Rose-Hulman Ventures.
Functioning as a student co-op, students are hired and paid for their work – just like at a regular job and, also like a regular job, they can therefore be fired if they don’t meet performance expectations. Student interns work an average of 10 hours per week during the academic year but work 40 hours per week during summer break under the supervision of faculty members who serve as their official project managers. In 2014-15, RHV hired 86 interns who worked a total of 29,450 hours for 33 different client companies – now that’s real world experience!
For prospective students who want to “try before they buy,” RHIT offers Operation Catapult to students who have completed junior year of high school. It’s a three week camp program that allows students to set up and run advanced-level scientific experiments under the supervision of RHIT faculty and learn first-hand what life at a science and engineering college is like. Each year, several Operation Catapult alumni join the RHIT first year class.