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Westinghouse Outfits A UNC Charlotte Lab Like An Industrial Plant

Picture this classroom experiment: A 30-ton crane hauls a piece of equipment meant for a nuclear plant onto a table that simulates an earthquake. That's what UNC Charlotte engineering students can expect to do, among other things, when the Energy and Production Infrastructure Center opens next year. Westinghouse donated two of these cranes and other equipment worth $3 million. The company builds products for nuclear power plants. Nick Liparulo, a senior vice president with the company, knows from experience that a traditional classroom is no substitute for a real industrial plant. "I can tell you when I was a young engineer a long time ago, when you look at the drawing and then walk into a plant, you can't get the size, the feel, the practical knowledge from looking at a drawing or TV screen," says Liparulo. "You need to go in and be able to see the equipment and that's what they're going to be able to do here." UNC Charlotte engineering students will be able to do that thanks to a Westinghouse donation. The company has donated two huge cranes that can haul large equipment in and out of the school's new EPIC building. That will allow students to build big infrastructure pieces and test them on earthquake and storm simulators. The gift also includes equipment that simulates the nuclear refueling process and the operation of Westinghouse's new reactor, along with training courses and use of the company's welding plant in Rock Hill. Westinghouse Vice President Jimmy Morgan hopes to recruit UNC Charlotte civil and mechanical engineering graduates since many of them will already be acquainted with the equipment the company uses. "Usually the thumb rule is that it's about two years for an engineer who's graduated to be able to really understand our business. So, hey, if this gives us a three-month or six-month advantage, that's a big deal," says Morgan. Westinghouse employs about 1,500 people around Charlotte and Columbia. The company expects it will be doing a lot of hiring as much of its workforce retires over the next 10 years and as it expects to ramp up production of its nuclear products.