Entrepreneurship meets Intrapreneurship: Support for 21st century learning among mechanical engineering students 


Much of the future of American industry depends on technologies developed and produced by companies such as Micron and Independence Hydrogen. At the College of Engineering and Computing, close ties to local companies like these benefit student learning especially when students can meet with company executives. 

Twice during the spring 2022 semester, course leader and adjunct professor George Siragusa, a senior capstone project faculty advisor, organized an opportunity for engineering students enrolled in Mechanical Engineering (ME) 352 to participate in virtual panel discussions with executives from these two companies  

As part of their required coursework and preparation for both sessions, the student engineers reviewed prepared materials, brainstormed, and then compiled a series of questions for the guests. Speaking directly to the class live via Zoom, the company executives offered unique perspectives and insights across a broad spectrum of topics.

Special guests included Kevin Hicks, senior facilities mechanical engineer for Micron’s Manassas operation and chair of Mason’s Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board and two members of the Manassas Fab Engineering team, Alexander Mieses, a recent Mason mechanical engineering graduate, and Ryan Schomberg.  

Another guest, William Lehner, Independence Hydrogen's founder and CEO also participated and says he couldn’t have been happier to share his experiences with the students. When I was asked by George (Professor Siragusa), my USN shipmate, company adviser, and friend, to support the course by providing entrepreneurial insights, I jumped at the opportunity. It’s important for entrepreneurs to share their successes and failures with each other. It’s a simple way to show my deep appreciation to all the mentors and advisors in my own career by paying it forward. 

Mr. Lehner brought an interesting perspective of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. He referenced the challenges he'd faced and the significant period of time he had to live off his savings as his company was not profitable for years,” says Evan Charlton a mechanical engineering student.  It was valuable to know just how much determination it can take to be successful as an entrepreneur, and the kind of technical and financial challenges you'd face. 

Through this experience, the students also gained valuable insights about internships, interviews, and landing that first job. “As a senior with no internship yet, it shed some light on how to go about looking for that first job once my studies are all complete, says Andrew Potts. I knew of the resources that are offered here on campus but the value of those resources is tremendous, and that's important to know. The advice we heard on interviews will also stick with me because I know one day, I will be in that position, anticipating my first interview.” 

As students transition from the classroom, to internships, to their first job they will be able to draw on the experiences of people like Hicks, Lehner, Mieses, and Schomberg. 

“Our course architecture layers in a variety of ways to have our students attain, then demonstrate career readiness competencies that directly translate to skills desired by today's hiring managers,” says Siragusa. These panel discussions offer our student engineers insights and real-world perspectives to guide them on their early career journey forward."  

About Micron 

Founded in 1978, Micron Technology, Inc. is a $21.4B company, 40,000-employee, American producer of computer memory and computer data storage including dynamic random-access memory, flash memory, and USB flash drives headquartered in Boise, Idaho with divisions in Manassas, VirginiaMicron is among the top exporters in Virginia and contributes to Virginia’s overall state and local economy.  

About Independence Hydrogen 

Independence Hydrogen, Inc. (“IH”) is a privately held company that is a pioneer in building the American hydrogen economy. Based in Ashburn, Virginia, IH opens the door to fuel cells with reliable, affordable, and clean hydrogen services. The IH team is 100 percent veterans from military and government service, many with combat leadership experience which defines a company culture of integrity, service to others, and operational-drive performance mentality. IH’s mission is to make communities cleaner, safer, and more energy resilient by providing access to affordable, low-carbon hydrogen.