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'Success Story:' Management Students Earn Sandia Kudos

SOCORRO, N.M. April 5, 2010 – Sandia National Laboratories is honoring New Mexico Tech management students, professor Dr. Frank Reinow and their industrial partners as one of the lab’s annual “Success Stories.”

The fall 2009 students earned accolades from Sandia National Laboratories for their small business project with Intor Inc., a Socorro manufacturer of thin film optics. From left are Cody Winclechter, Gavin Torres, Natalie Earthman and Byron Whitehorse. The students, along with management professor Dr. Frank Reinow and Stan Bryn of Intor will receive their awards Thursday in Santa Fe.

Two teams of students have been working with Intor Inc., a Socorro manufacturer of thin film optics. In Tech’s first year partnering with the lab’s Small Business Assistance Center, the management team hit the jackpot.

Department chair Dr. Peter Anselmo said Tech is a perfect fit for the Center’s small business projects because Tech students are accustomed to finding practical solutions to interdisciplinary dilemmas.

“We wanted to show the Sandia folks that we could excel in this environment and I believe we did that,” Anselmo said. “This project with Intor defines how students should be collaborating with industrial sponsors.”

Anselmo has been developing relationships with scientists and managers at the national laboratories for many years. He said that Sandia officials were so pleased with the two projects that the partnership has germinated into a long-term agreement between the university and the labs.

The two national laboratories – Sandia and Los Alamos – funded the initial program. The two labs first agreed to extend the one-semester partnership to a full year and now have pledged support for another three years with as much as $87,000. Reinow is currently finalizing the industrial partners who will work with student teams during the 2010-2011 school year.

“This program is brand new to Tech and right out of the gate, we were recognized as a ‘Success Story’ based on the work of our students and support from electrical engineering professor Scott Teare,” Reinow said. “The students demonstrated that they are able to get this sort of project completed in a short period of time and with a quality product."

Stan Bryn of Intor (left) explains his company's operations to Genero Montoya of Sandia National Lab.
Scott Botko of Intor (left) shows off his company's finished product to professor Dr. Frank Reinow and Leigh Schutzberger of Sandia.

Reinow and the team from the Fall 2009 semester will attend the Innovation Celebration hosted by Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs on Thursday, April 8, in Santa Fe. Those students are Natalie Earthman, Cody Winclechter, Byron Whitehorse and Gavin Torres. Sandia’s Small Business Assistance program will give awards to Reinow, Stan Bryn of Intor and the student group. The fall 2009 semester project is part of Reinow’s course Management 462: Systems, Risk and Decision Analysis.

The partnerships give students practical experience in a professional environment and exposure to situations that require application of the concepts learned in management courses. Another group of students worked with Animal Haven Veterinary Clinic in Socorro on a project involving information technology and computer science.

“Projects like this are why we come to Tech,” senior Cody Winclechter told Sandia representatives during a recent visit to Intor. 

Winclechter said he and his teammates have worked closely with co-owner Stanley Bryn and general manager Scott Botko to understand the company’s market and to develop marketing and technological recommendations, pinpoint target customers and identify expansion opportunities

Gennero Montoya and Leigh Schutzberger of Sandia visited Intor Inc., along with Reinow and the students currently collaborating with the company – Winclechter, Vanessa Salas, Ryan Halton and Jordan Klepper. Montoya said the main goal of the Small Business Assistance program is to provide technical expertise to small, high-tech  companies. He said he was impressed that Tech’s two initial projects accentuate the university’s expertise and he hopes Tech continues to find projects that fit the school’s science and engineering focus.

Bryn and Botko gave a tour of the facility, explained their processes and discussed their niche in the broader optics market. The students talked about their work on the project and how much they learned working with the Intor management team.

“Doing all the technical work has been a real eye-opener,” said Vanessa Salas, who is an electrical engineering major focused on optics. “They have been really good about showing us the business side of things.”

 
Vanessa Salas and Ryan Halton   Jordan Klepper and Cody Winclechter

Klepper, a mechanical engineering senior, said the project gives students a new perspective on intergrating technology and engineering with economics and market analysis.

Halton said, “It’s nice to see the process as a whole. In school, we get focused on technology, but when you extrapolate the entire business, you look all the whole dynamics.”

Reinow said the project is valuable because students are working on interdisciplinary teams and the expectations are similar to what they’ll experience in the workplace. In future years, he hopes to increasingly collaborate with other academic departments in crafting these projects to cater to a wide range of engineering and science students.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech