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UW Regents approve plastics engineering degree at UW-Stout

The University of Wisconsin-Stout will now be able to offer a bachelor's degree in plastics engineering.

On Friday, the UW Board of Regents approved the degree which UW-Stout officials say will be offered starting this fall.

UW-Stout already offers a bachelor of science degree in engineering technology with a concentration in plastics.

The proposal would elevate this concentration to undergraduate degree status.

"This will serve a very large plastics industry in Wisconsin," said Charles Sorenson, UW-Stout chancellor.

He added that the industry currently has to recruit graduates from universities in other states for plastics engineers.

"Students and employers alike have asked UW-Stout to elevate the plastics concentration to a separate degree program, said Julie Furst-Bowe, UW-Stout provost.

"It is our goal to provide more program choices, especially in the engineering and technology fields, while remaining true to our mission," she added.

According to Furst-Bowe, 36 percent of all plastics manufacturing in the United States takes place within a 500-mile radius of Wisconsin, "so we are confident that there will be jobs for graduates of this program."

Jon Spaeth, an engineering manager with Phillips Plastics Corp., said in a letter to the Board of Regents that his company "is continually looking for and developing new engineering talent."

"Phillips has and continues to hire UW-Stout graduates for our engineering level positions," Spaeth wrote. "We have always been pleased with the caliber of the individuals from UW-Stout and believe that the additional degree will place the graduate one step further ahead."

UW-Stout officials have projected that there will be 100 students in the program after five years. There are no other polymer/plastics engineering programs in Wisconsin.

The plastics engineering degree program will use the same core classes as the current manufacturing engineering program, but will require eight additional courses.

The course work would cover material selection and testing; processes such as injection molding, extrusion, thermoforming, blow molding and rotational molding; and the design of tooling and machinery.