10th annual Hard Hat Ceremony builds on School of Computing and Engineering’s success

The School of Computing and Engineering celebrated the strong foundation of success it has built throughout the past decade on Friday at the 10th annual Hard Hat Ceremony.

Each year, the school honors its students with a signature event affectionately known as the hard hat ceremony. The event included a presentation from the school honoring Connecticut’s Chief Manufacturing Officer, Paul Lavoie. Lavoie received the School of Computing and Engineering's friend of computing and engineering blue hard hat award. He is the first person outside of the university to be honored in this way, said School of Computing and Engineering dean Taskin Kocak.

Kocak said Lavoie is a friend of the school who has demonstrated unwavering support for students, faculty and staff. Lavoie has been a key collaborator with Quinnipiac’s participation in the CT MET Fair and CT Manufacturing Ambassadors Program. Additionally, he supports School of Computing and Engineering students by attending Projects Day, visiting classes, and championing Quinnipiac’s efforts toward supporting workforce development in Connecticut.

“Paul's dedication to our institution extends beyond mere partnership; Quinnipiac serves as his remote Connecticut office, a testament to his commitment to our community,” said Kocak. “Paul understands the importance of smaller programs, like ours, in meeting Connecticut's workforce needs.”

As an example of how closely Quinnipiac works with Connecticut’s Office of Manufacturing, Lavoie recalled Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of Mechanical Engineering Lynn Byers meeting with him to discuss how Quinnipiac was modifying its curriculum to meet Connecticut’s manufacturing strategic plan.

At the time, Lavoie said Quinnipiac was the only university in the state to be proactively preparing its students for the future of Connecticut manufacturing.

“Understand that your dean, your organization and your professors are the ones that took the strategic plan and said, ‘We need to get you ready for manufacturing in the future,’” Lavoie said. “And manufacturing in the future is going to be all about robotics, automation, additive manufacturing, digital transformation and computer science. Computer scientists will tell the engineers what the data is telling them and the engineers will be able to maximize our shop floors and our manufacturing operations.”

Lavoie congratulated the students and thanked the School of Computing and Engineering.

“I am so proud and honored. Thank all of you for this wonderful recognition,” said Lavoie.

Faculty in blue hard hats presented awards to students from the school’s civil engineering, computer science studies, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering and software engineering programs.

In all, 239 students were recognized, including 111 initial achievement students receiving a hard hat for the first time. In addition, 65 advanced achievement awards were presented to students upon completion of another program year. The school also celebrated its pending graduates by distributing 76 graduation awards.

Students were also recognized with special achievement award stickers, including 41 leadership awards, 186 academic awards, five research awards, 32 competition awards, 130 service awards, 30 internship awards, 12 philanthropy awards and eight dean’s special awards.

In 2023, U.S. News and World Report continued to rank Quinnipiac among the best engineering programs. Last year, the School of Computing and Engineering experienced its largest enrollment, with 167 first-year students and 16 transfer students. Kocak said it was important to appreciate the significance of the school’s remarkable journey thus far.

“From humble beginnings as an engineering program within the School of Business to evolving into the vibrant School of Computing and Engineering, our faculty and staff have crafted exceptional programs that redefine excellence,” Kocak said. “I'm continually amazed by the caliber of what we've achieved in such a short span since our official inception in 2016, with many of these accomplishments happening in just the last year.”

The School of Computing and Engineering's new master of science in computer science and its on-ground masters in cybersecurity inaugural classes matriculated in the fall of 2023. Also in 2023, the School of Computing and Engineering's cybersecurity program was designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. The designation is awarded by the National Security Agency.

The School of Computing and Engineering's 10th annual Hard Hat Ceremony was a culminating moment during the school’s annual Engineers Week, Kocak said.

“While Engineers Week casts a broad spotlight, we’ve also shone a light on the equally vital field of computer science. Throughout the week, we’ve immersed ourselves in multiple engaging events — from tech talks with industry professionals, the ASCE gumdrop bridge building competition and the highly anticipated Ransomware Case Competition — each one igniting our passion for innovation and discovery.”

Now in its 10th year, the School of Computing and Engineering's annual Hard Hat Ceremony has become a cherished tradition, Kocak said.

“The hard hat, symbolizing the essence of an engineer, was chosen as our symbol, a badge of honor that forever links you to our esteemed School of Computing and Engineering,” Kocak said. “Today's gathering isn’t merely a ceremony; it serves as a powerful force, drawing us closer as a closely-knit community, offering an opportunity to celebrate each other’s victories and establish enduring bonds. This occasion has swiftly evolved into a beloved tradition, showcasing our shared resilience and unity.”

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