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Featured Faculty Profile

       

Donald Ingram

Senior Professor - DeVry University Chicago
Teaching Field: Electronics, Physics, Controls and Automation, Programming
"People sometimes refer to DeVry as a technical school, and I have no objection to that. It puts us in the same class as MIT. Entrepreneurship sets DeVry apart. It is in our interest to satisfy the real needs of our customers. We are a profit-making institution, aware of and responsive to the customer: the student and the hiring industry."

Where I come from

As an undergraduate I wanted to major in engineering physics, but I was not that good a student and didn't make the grades to succeed in that program. I was interested in too many diverse subjects to concentrate on the courses at hand, and I managed to extend a four-year BS degree into five years. That experience gave me great empathy for students. Since then, I've earned most of two bachelor's degrees and all of two master's degrees, one in human resource development and one in adult education. Very little of what I teach today existed when I was an undergraduate.

In general, what an enormous waste of time public school is. Given the right instruction, people learn so much more rapidly - and much more useful information - than the way we're usually taught. That's part of what attracted me to teaching. I wanted to give students the education I wanted but did not receive. I had a few good teachers, but not enough to offset the system.

A teacher for DeVry University - and industry

Prior to DeVry University, I was an engineer for Aeroquip, for Hoover Ball Bearing, for Ann Arbor Instrument Works, and a machinist for Olmstead Products. I have taught at DeVry University since 1968. I teach Electronics, Physics, Controls and Automation, and Programming. In addition, I've taught specialized courses at the kinds of companies my students want to work for - Borg Warner, General Motors, Electromotive, and Skill Bosch. Rubbing shoulders with people in industry provides a great background for teaching at DeVry University. It enables me to tell students exactly what they need to know and how they need to present themselves to succeed in the work environment.

An engineer and an inventor

My first love was engineering, and I stay current. Now I have my own company, Ingram Engineering LLC. Among other things, I've designed and produced high power variable inductors for Skill-Bosch that lets them test their product switches, an accumulator transport for Dresden Nuclear Station that enables employees to get in and out of highly radioactive areas more quickly, and a remote-controlled cantilever elevator for a paraplegic. Projects like this enable me to keep students informed about the leading technology trends in engineering.

How to make a robot

Beginning with sketches and a sophisticated calculator, I model ideas on Working Models 2D and 4D with a high-resolution computer. SolidWorks solid modeling computer-aided-engineering (CAE) and Cosmos finite element analysis (FEA) software enables me to prototype and analyze stresses and strains in parts equipment before I actually begin cutting metal. MasterCam and Centroid help me turn dimensions into computer numeric controlled (CNC) instructions. The two CNC milling machines, a lathe, and other tools produce the parts.

Roosevelt High School students participated in the design and construction of five robots we built to compete in the F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competitions, which aim to interest high school students in engineering careers. One year our robot won second place in the local division and third place in the nation against such engineering departments as General Motors, NASA, Motorola, and those sponsoring about 300 other schools. One of our robots cut the ribbon for opening our north building at DeVry University Chicago.

Ideas that fly

I have a great interest in aviation and avionics, the application of electronics to aviation systems. I am building a two-seater Europa airplane that will fly 200 mph. I bring that knowledge to the Physics and Controls classes. I also bring in projects that I've been working on for demonstrations, and help the students to design, program, and build their Senior Projects. One semester I took the students to tour a number of wind tunnels, and then helped them build and instrument their own, each of them taking on a different aspect of the cooperative Senior Project. In the physics class, the students made and flew a hot air balloon.

The incentive for studying something difficult

I think the ideal teaching/learning environment is the lab-lecture format. First we talk, then I demo, then students work on the problem right away in real time using sophisticated software and hardware, such as Working Model 2D, Excel, and electronic measuring tools. My smallest class enrolled eight students, but the average is 20. I tell them, here's the incentive for studying hard subjects: the harder the material is, the fewer people who will persevere to learn it. Because there are not many who will learn to do the job, you who have learned will earn higher wages.

Preparing for the real world

I encourage my students to attend trade shows (and bring their resumes) to get more exposure to the work world they are preparing for. I also stress that when you are hired, you represent the company you work for. If something goes wrong, even if it is not your fault, accept it and fix it. For that reason, I focus on how to approach the trouble-shooting procedure. Also, neatness in all aspects is the mark of a professional. I expect everything from soldered circuits to final reports to look professional.

Practicing the golden rule

I believe in treating people the way you want to be treated yourself. Putting yourself in the place of the student helps you to be patient. You have to respect their obligations outside of the classroom, but keep them moving.

Making the grade

I give a test every week; the student's final grade is the simple average of the scores. Everyone has the opportunity to take differing versions of every test twice; their grade is the higher score. Sometimes a student misses both tests, for example, because he or she is called up for Reserve duty. The final exam substitutes for one lower score. I grade on quantity and quality of education, with less weight on rigidity of schedule. There is no curve nor extra credit nor retake of retakes. Hardly anyone ever attempts to cheat in my classes, nor complains about how they are graded. Students seem to be satisfied with a fair chance to prove themselves.

Why DeVry?

People sometimes refer to DeVry University as a technical school, and I have no objection to that. It puts us in the same class as MIT.

Entrepreneurship sets DeVry University apart. It is in our interest to satisfy the real needs of our customers. We are a profit-making institution, aware of and responsive to the customer: the student and the hiring industry. Because we thrive by tuition alone, we pay close attention to what our students need to succeed in the job market. We listen to the feedback from industry for which DeVry University trains quality technicians. I hear a lot of positives, but whenever I hear a negative, I go back and improve the instruction.