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An EYE on the future

Image of Ryan Pecaut superimposed over overhead view of populated convention center.

When Ryan Pecaut, industrial and systems engineering ‘21, approached the Engineer Your Experience (EYE) Program office with a proposal, he expected to be turned away. A professor of his had mentioned EMO Hannover, the largest industrial technology conference in the world, piquing Pecaut’s interest.

He had secured funding for a previous project concerning the use of national and state parks, so he was familiar with the program. This time, though, he was coming with, in his words, “a ridiculous request.”

“It wasn’t a matter of ‘You want to go to Germany?’” Pecaut said. “It was a matter of ‘How can we make this happen?’”

Since its founding in 2019, the EYE Program has provided funds and support for hundreds of engineering students who are interested in enriching their education. EYE funds can be used for a variety of purposes: professional conferences, alternative service break trips, study abroad or student competitions. Shelly Hoover-Plonk, coordinator of student enhancement programs, works with students to help them take the most advantage of these opportunities.

When international and domestic travel became less feasible in 2020, the program refocused its offerings. They began funding students’ technical certifications and helped start Engineering Interest Circles, a virtual networking opportunity that connects students with alumni working in their chosen fields.

Being able to have a little bit of a view of how international collaboration happens while still in college is really helpful.

“This was an excellent opportunity for them, especially when interaction was very limited,” Hoover-Plonk said.

With students able to travel again, the program is still offering virtual opportunities as well as real-world experiences.

“The silver lining for us, in regards to COVID-19, is that we found out, by having to push for new ideas, that we could do some different things that would be supportive of our students,” Hoover-Plonk said.

Recently, the program helped fund SenseNC, a multi-disciplinary student research team that competed in a virtual international competition last fall. They have also provided study abroad awards to approximately 150 students for this summer.

Students also have the opportunity to take on a leadership role. The Student Advisory Committee helps market the program and come up with new ideas for how the program can expand to provide more diverse opportunities. The committee currently has open spots for more students who are interested.

These opportunities further expand the breadth of experience engineering students bring from their education to the workplace. Pecaut now works as a supply chain digitization manager at Procter & Gamble after completing an internship with the company.

“I am working with folks around the world who ultimately are feeding into that supply chain. Even at my internship, I was working with folks from Sweden and Switzerland and Egypt and Singapore,” he said. “Being able to have a little bit of a view of how international collaboration happens while still in college is really helpful.”

For more information, please contact Hoover-Plonk at