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The School Of Engineering

Report Of The Dean Of Engineering

To the President of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute:

The School of Engineering is organized into three divisions for the purpose of carrying out, in a systematic and progressive manner, the three functions of a school of engineering in its service to the state: resident instruction, research, and technical service. These divisions of our organization are:

  1. The Division of Resident Instruction.
  2. The Engineering Experiment Station.
  3. The Engineering Extension Division.

Since separate reports are to be submitted by the directors of the Engineering Experiment Station and of the Engineering Extension Division, this report will deal only in a general way with those activities, but more specifically with the work of resident instruction.

The staff of the School of Engineering is at present organized into twelve departments, each carrying out, in its subject-matter field, the services to the state, of instruction, research, and service.

At the opening of the session 1929-30 the former curriculum in commercial engineering was replaced by one in industrial engineering, with a more definite aim to fit men primarily for manufacturing organization and administration. Coincident with this change there was created the department of industrial engineering with a group of courses which present the underlying engineering and economic principles of industrial organization and management. The mechanic arts department has been made a part of the industrial engineering department, since the instruction in shop work is essentially laboratory work in industrial engineering. Professor Paul T. Norton was made professor of industrial engineering and also head of the industrial service bureau of the Engineering Extension Division. At the same time Professor H. S. Grenoble was placed in charge of the bureau of extension instruction.

The resident enrolment increased from 678 in 1928-29 to 719 in 1929-30.


The change inaugurated in 1927, of putting descriptive geometry in the freshman year has been found to be unsatisfactory. This work has, therefore, been again placed in the second year, when the students will be better prepared for this subject. This change has the further advantage that the full year of engineering drawing in the common freshman year makes it possible to utilize the drawing work as a part of our vocational guidance program. The students will receive some training in the uses of engineering drawing as the language of each division of engineering professional practice. Those who are compelled to drop out at the end of the freshman year will have had more training in a useful art which will enable them better to get a foothold in the industries.

In the senior years of all curricula room was made for optional courses, thus making it possible for students to specialize to a limited extent in some of the newer departments which have specific industrial aims. The more popular optional groups have been: aeronautical engineering, ceramic engineering, industrial engineering, and radio engineering. The addition of Professor F. J. Sette to the staff in civil engineering made it possible to offer a specialized option in sanitary engineering work for seniors in that department.

The year was marked by a decided strengthening of our graduate work in engineering, with more courses of a strictly graduate nature being offered.

The Patton Engineering Hall was occupied at the outset of the year and has contributed in a marked degree to our teaching accomplishments by affording better facilities to both faculty and students.


A detailed report on our Engineering Experiment Station will be submitted by its director. The research fellowships which were available for the first time this year made it possible for us to increase materially our research activities. A number of projects were carried to completion and reports should be published during the coming year.

Public Service

The Engineering Extension Division is our formal organization for rendering technical service and instruction to the various factors of the commonwealth: individuals, communities, and industries. In addition to the work which will be reported by the director of that division, there is a great mass of service which has been rendered to the commonwealth without being definitely associated with the Engineering Extension Division. Analyses and tests of waters, minerals, and materials of all sorts have been made in great numbers. The department of chemistry and chemical engineering reports 227 analyses made during the year on waters, minerals, etc. In the ceramic laboratories 125 samples of ceramic materials were tested and reported upon. The sanitary engineering laboratory has carried on studies of the Pulaski water supply and of the Salem filtration plant, besides our own water supply and sewage disposal plants. In chemical engineering, a laboratory has been operated on the stream pollution problems of the state. In metallurgy, assays of mineral-bearing deposits have been made for many individuals. In the materials laboratories, in the shops and in the metallurgical laboratories tests have been made of the products of various industries.

Innumerable letters from citizens, industries, inventors, graduates, and former students asking for technical information and advice have been carefully studied and answered.

Participation In The Work Of Professional Societies

An examination of the departmental reports will indicate a healthy condition in the memberships of our faculty in the leading professional organizations in their respective fields. The members of the staff have continued to take an active part in the work of the various professional societies in the state and, so far as our funds for travel would permit, in the programs of the national societies. In April, 1930, the School of Engineering was the host for a joint meeting of the Virginia sections of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Chemical Society, and the Southwest Virginia Chemists Club. The students participated by holding an “open house” and giving demonstrations of the work being done in the various departments.

Publications By The Staff

From the Virginia Polytechnic Institute press there were issued during the year two Engineering Experiment Station bulletins, four Engineering Extension bulletins and twenty industrial surveys of cities and counties in the state.

Two text-books, written by members of our staff, were published by nationally-known publishing houses and have been well received.

At least thirteen technical articles from the pens of members of our staff have appeared in the technical journals.

Future Plans

In the field of resident instruction we shall continue to study our curricula and our teaching methods with the aim of improving the training given, and of correlating it with the changing needs of the professional world.

In our research we need closer cooperation with and support by the industries. Our research has three general aims: the accumulation of greater knowledge of the fundamental laws which underlie our technical processes in the industries, studies to improve the technique of industry, and studies of undeveloped resources and of waste products looking toward the development of new industries. To carry out these aims we need greater cooperation from the industries in two ways: we need to have the industries place their problems before us, and we need their assistance in financing studies which should be of commercial value to them. A continuous campaign will be conducted to place before the industries the possibilities of research and to interest them in aiding such work financially. We believe that some headway has been made and that a continuation of our effort will bring increasing results.

Likewise, in the rendering of technical service through the extension organization there is need of a greater public understanding of the possible services we may render. In the field of extension instruction our location away from industrial centers has been a handicap. Extension headquarters in industrial centers of the state should make it more feasible to find out the needs for technical instruction and to supply such instruction where needed.


In the way of housing facilities for our instructional departments and research laboratories, the most pressing need is a building which might be called the “Hall of Mineral Industries,” to house the related departments of mining engineering, geology, ceramic engineering and metallurgy. These departments, now scattered and inadequately housed, are closely related in their work and are of such vital importance in the development of the mineral resources of the state that they should be grouped together with modern facilities for their training programs and for their research work. Such a building would be primarily a laboratory building, but with offices and classrooms as well for the staffs of these departments. It should be in close connection with the materials testing laboratory and with the shop departments, and should, therefore, be in close relationship to McBryde Hall as to location.

The various departmental reports state the probable need of staff additions in the near future. With an increase of registration of one hundred students for the current year the teaching staff is carrying a very heavy load, with sections much larger than they should be for efficient teaching.

There are some peculiarities of organization that need adjustment, the instructional department of metallurgy is in the School of Engineering, but its curriculum in metallurgy is in the college. On the other hand, the department of geology is in the college, but its curriculum in engineering geology is in the School of Engineering.

One of the greatest needs for the successful pursuit of the aims of our departments is an increase in the funds available for supplies and operating expenses. With increasing enrolments, the available funds are consumed for the bare necessities of laboratory instruction, leaving little for the research which is so important to our progress and to the development of the state. We hope to secure grants from industries for some research work. However, the departments doing the most constructive work looking toward the development of our natural resources are working for the public good and cannot look to any existing industry for aid. An increase of $3,000 in our operating budget would just meet the reasonable requests of the departments for such purposes, and they could all use to advantage even more than they have modestly requested.

The first floor of Patton Engineering Hall, occupied by the department of electrical engineering, was not finished when built and the contract for the upper stories did not include completion of this floor. We should consider making an expenditure for woodwork, ceiling, wall finish, etc., to make this floor comparable with the rest of Patton Hall.

It is our hope to make our shops, now under the department of industrial engineering, savor more of a laboratory of manufacturing. To do this we need to eliminate the manual-arts type of equipment and install some additional equipment that will illustrate and perform fundamental manufacturing processes. In addition, the shops as a part of our educational program should be completely separated from the function of serving as repair shops for the college. It is to be hoped that we may look forward to having a service shop building which can be under the business manager and thus permit the present shop organization to devote its efforts entirely to the educational program.

In submitting this report I would be remiss if I did not comment on the loyal spirit in which the staffs of the various engineering departments have cooperated in all our efforts. In conclusion, I desire to express, on behalf of the faculty in engineering, our appreciation of the cordial support and encouragement which you have at all times given to our efforts.

Respectfully submitted,

Earle B. Norris, Dean of Engineering.