• October 26, 2020

GOOD NEWS: Midland College names Henry Chair of Engineering - Odessa American: Good News

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GOOD NEWS: Midland College names Henry Chair of Engineering

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Posted: Sunday, October 4, 2020 3:00 am

MIDLAND Thanks to a generous gift from the Henry Foundation and employees of Henry Resources, Midland College (MC) has created an endowment that will award the interest generated to the MC Engineering program.

The endowment also honors Paula and Jim Henry by creating the Paula & Jim Henry Chair of Engineering. The gift, given last fall, commemorated the 50th anniversary of Henry Resources.

Last month, Midland College named MC Engineering Department Chair Brian Flowers as the Paula & Jim Henry Chair of Engineering.

Flowers joined the MC Engineering faculty in August 2016. Since that time enrollment in MC’s Engineering program has grown over 600 percent. College officials credit this to several factors: (1) dynamic, hands-on teaching style; (2) small class size and faculty accessibility; (3) specialized engineering research projects; and (4) articulation agreements with engineering schools at various universities including Texas Tech and the University of Texas Permian Basin. Flowers has been instrumental in leading and/or participating in all of these efforts.

“The engineering chair position is our second ‘Henry’ department chair,” Steve Thomas, MC president, said. “In 2011, Paula & Jim gifted the college with an endowment for our history program that established the Henry Chair of History. Now the Henry Chair of Engineering complements the history chair. We are honored that we can recognize Paula’s love of and expertise in history with Jim’s engineering achievements by having both chairs at Midland College. The gift to Midland College that established the engineering chair recognizes Jim’s pioneering spirit in petroleum engineering, his contributions to the Permian Basin oil & gas industry and the tremendous impact that the couple’s business operations have had in the Midland community. It is fitting that Brian Flowers has been named the college’s first Henry Chair of Engineering, as he has led numerous advancements in MC’s engineering program during the past four years.”

Flowers has actively participated in selecting engineering equipment for the new Concho Engineering Lab at Midland College, which will be a creative space that includes equipment such as CNC mills and lathes. The Henry Foundation also gave the college a grant for much of the lab’s equipment. Flowers said that students enrolled in MC’s Engineering classes will be able use the equipment in the Concho Engineering Lab as well as engineering design programs and 3-D printers in the Henry Innovations Center to gain hands-on experience of taking an idea from design to prototype.

Flowers obtained his doctorate, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama. He was an MC Teaching Excellence Award finalist in 2019-2020 and a Texas Community College Teachers’ Association Faculty Fellow in 2018.

In 2015, Flowers was named the American Society of Chemists Graduate Student of the Year for the University of Alabama. In addition to his academic awards, he also received the Melvin Jones Fellowship in December of 2019 from the Midland Northside Lions’ Club. At Midland College, Flowers has led student research efforts to design and build sensor systems for testing water chemistry around coral reefs. The systems were first used in summer 2017 to test coral reefs in Roatan, Honduras. Flowers explained that the original housing built in 2017 was so large that it had to be shipped by a transportation service to Honduras. Since that time, MC Engineering students, mentored by Flowers, have refined the design so that now the sensor pods can fit in a suitcase and be included with checked baggage. The interdisciplinary MC Marine Science Research Team, comprised of faculty and students from Chemistry, Biology, Engineering and Physics, will once again be in Roatan during summer 2021 to use the equipment. Flowers said that the new sensors have been tested to withstand a water depth of 200 feet for over a week.

“The water sensor project is a perfect example of a real-world engineering problem,” Flowers explained. “We designed and built a tangible product that can sit on the bottom of the sea floor for the duration of the battery life (over two weeks). Students in MC’s Engineering Club work outside of regular class times on the project. I’m very proud of their dedication and success in this project.

“We are now working on other systems to test algae and other phytoplankton concentrations at different depths in the water column. We are also working on ways to use machine learning image recognition to speed analysis of photographic surveys to measure overall reef health and biodiversity.

“Everything we do at Midland College is to help students be successful and advance into their careers as quickly as possible. Engineers must be one-half scientist and one-half businessperson. A good engineer knows how to take the fundamentals of math and science and use those as tools to solve a real-world problem. My goal is to ensure students who are interested in pursuing engineering careers are prepared for their future classes and beyond.”

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