New collaboration will bring talents of NIU engineering students to manufacturers

Local News

A newly formed collaboration between Northern Illinois University’s (NIU) College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, IMEC Illinois, Sauk Valley Community College (SVCC) and Whiteside County Economic Development (WCED) will bring the talents of NIU senior engineering students to bear on challenges facing manufacturers.

Teams of three NIU students, a graduate teaching assistant and faculty advisor are assigned to manufacturers and are involved in creating or improving commercial products or industrial processes through engineering design, a news release says. Students gain hands-on, real-world experience while bringing the latest classroom knowledge and theories to construct a prototype or process.

SVCC and WCED are contributing a portion of the funding for the Senior Design Project in the Northwest Illinois Region, and seek sponsor teams with local students working at a local manufacturer.

On Monday, Josh West, academic dean of business, career, and technical programs at SVCC, and Gary Camarano, WCED director, presented Joe Bonnell, president of Bonnell Industries in Dixon, with a check for $5,000 to partially cover the expense of a Senior Design Project at Bonnell. 

Bonnell Industries is a 62-year-old local firm manufacturing truck, snow removal and road maintenance equipment.

“The Senior Design Project is a great resource for a company our size,” Bonnell said. “The team will work with us in developing an innovative product that will provide a solution for our customers, and position Bonnell to better meet the competitive environment we are in. This also gives us a look at promising talent that could become part of the Bonnell team in the future.”

“We are really excited to be able to provide our local manufacturers with workforce assistance, and to see SVCC graduates who are completing their BS in Engineering at NIU come back to the region and be part of this assistance,” West said. “Additionally, this project allows us to show our engineering students what a design project would look like at their four-year institution. SVCC is committed to local workforce development, and this is one example of that commitment.”

“The Senior Design Project is a fantastic way for our students to gain hands-on experience while applying what they’ve learned to real-world problems facing our region’s manufacturers,” said Ray Ziganto, manufacturing director at NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. “The program is getting rave reviews from both students and manufacturers, and we’re looking to expand the program, and attract more manufacturers. IMEC Illinois, Sauk Valley Community College and Whiteside County Economic Development are helping us find manufacturing partners in Northwest Illinois, and our senior students are raring to meet the engineering challenges.”

“We’re looking to help manufacturers with a valued added short-term project and provide students with an enhanced learning experience that will hopefully end with a talented engineering graduate entering our local workforce. It’s really a win-win-win situation for our manufacturers, the students, and the region,” Camarano said.

Manufacturers interested in learning more about the Senior Design Project program, and how they can participate, should contact Ziganto at or 630-215-6928; or West at or 815-835-6334.

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