Cal Poly’s Fire Protection Engineering (FPE) will be the only master’s program of its kind on the West Coast, and the third such program in the nation.
With the approval of the CSU chancellor and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, FPE will be offered through the College of Engineering starting fall quarter 2010.
It’s a 45-credit program like all other master’s programs at Cal Poly, FPE acting director and visiting professor Fred Mowrer said.
“This interdisciplinary program is unique because all of the courses will be offered both on campus and online,” he said.
FPE is in high demand, said William Durgin, an aerospace engineering professor and university executive for research and external support.
“Fire protection engineers who come from the East Coast to the West don’t stay for very long,” he said. “Students who train with Cal Poly will most likely stay and work in the west.”
The number of open positions for fire protection engineers in California alone is 600, he said
“Companies that need fire protection engineers are hiring mechanical and civil engineers and do on-site training with them,” he said.
FPE will have three different tracks, he said. Fundamentals, dealing with the physics and chemistry of fire, along with the simulation of fire in buildings and flammable materials. An applications track, which covers the design of different fire protection systems, system analysis design, forest and fire protection as well as an electives track.
In tradition of Cal Poly’s ‘learn by doing’ approach, FPE students will adopt a fairly complicated building on or off campus and do an analysis of the fire safety, he said.
“Students will know how people get in and out a building, how fires develop within the building, and how the building will survive the fire,” he said.
Cal Poly FPE wants to research the propagation of wild fires into urban areas, Durgin said.
“We have no research being done and we don’t know how to design effectively,” he said. “If we learn how to develop interface, where the forest ends and buildings begin, we could help tremendously on how to control the spread of fires into urban areas.”
Fire protection engineers main employers are consulting firms who do work with architects and government agencies, Mowrer said.
“I’d like to see a lot of graduates work in fire departments,” he said. “They’ve had a hard time hiring them because there hasn’t been enough engineers. We will graduate more people and the fire departments can compete to hire them.”
There are a host of feeder programs that provide a solid background for FPE, Durgin said.
“Civil or mechanical engineers are the main bachelor’s programs,” he said. “Industrial and manufacturing, electrical and aerospace engineering are all acceptable. As well as sciences like chemistry and physics.”
According to the schools on the East Coast, the average income for fire protection engineers is $60 to 70,000, Mowrer said.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts and University of Maryland are the only other schools in the nation with FPE.