Timeline – The History of Engineering at UNC Charlotte

1946 – Charlotte Center opens and begins teaching two-year technology programs and college parallel pre-engineering courses.

1949 – Charlotte Center becomes Charlotte College.

1950s – North Carolina State in cooperation with Charlotte College offers a series of evening classes leading to a certificate in industrial engineering or to a two-year associate’s degree for engineering technicians in the Electrical Technology electronics option. A number of the first engineering students are from Douglass Aircraft Company, brought in through the involvement and support of their boss Sheldon Smith, for whom the Smith Building will later be named.

1957 – The Technical Division of Charlotte College starts.

1958 – Charlotte College is approved as an accredited arm of the NC State School of Engineering, allowing students in Charlotte to go beyond freshman and sophomore courses and begin taking junior, senior and graduate level classes in Charlotte for the same credit hours as similar courses at NC State.

1960 – Ground is broken for the new Charlotte College campus on Highway 49 in northeast Mecklenburg County.

1963 – Charlotte College becomes a four-year college. Upper division classes are introduced in mechanical and electrical engineering.

1964 – Newton Barnette is named chairman of the Department of Engineering at Charlotte College. Electrical and mechanical are the only two disciplines..

1965 – The first students graduate from Charlotte College with bachelor’s degrees on June 6. The graduates include engineering students Billy Roseman and Ray Young. This would be the first and only class of Charlotte College bachelor’s degree graduates, because on July 1, 1965, Charlotte College became the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

1966 – Construction begins on the Smith Building, which will be the first home of engineering.

1967 – Civil Engineering classes start.

1970 – Engineering Technology starts, with courses and faculty in civil, electrical and mechanical. Overall engineering becomes the Division of Engineering.

1973 – The Division of Engineering becomes the College of Engineering. The Engineering Council for Professional Development accredits UNC Charlotte engineering programs in:
Engineering Analysis and Design
Engineering Science, Mechanics and Materials
Urban and Environmental Engineering
Engineering Technology – Civil; Computer, Electrical; and Mechanical

1974 – College of Engineering enrollment reaches 424, with 287 students in engineering and 137 in technology.

On Sept 11, 1974, Eastern Airlines Flight 212 crashes in a fog as it was attempting to land at Charlotte’s Douglas Airport. Dr. Walt Norem, the well-respected and well-liked chair of the college’s Engineering Science, Mechanics and Materials Department is on the flight and dies in the crash.

1976 – Newton Barnette steps down as dean.

1977 – Dr. Robert Snyder, chair of the Department of Engineering Science, Mechanics and Materials, becomes the new dean of the College of Engineering. The college starts a cooperative education program.

1978 – Enrollment reaches 1,000.

1979 – The Master of Science in Engineering degree program starts in the fall with 30 students.

1981 – Restructuring of the engineering departments begins, with Engineering Analysis and Design becoming Electrical Engineering, Urban and Environmental Engineering becoming Civil Engineering, and Engineering Science, Mechanics and Materials becoming Mechanical Engineering.

1983 – Construction begins on an addition to the Smith Building.

1984 – The Microelectronic Center of North Carolina opens in Research Triangle Park, which leads to UNC Charlotte hiring some of the country’s top research engineers. Research funding in the college makes a “quantum leap,” with grants totaling $300,000.

1985 – Computer Science, formerly an extension of the Mathematics Department, is established as a department within the College of Engineering.

1986 – An inter-institutional Ph.D. degree program with NC State begins.

1987 – Degree specific master’s degree programs begin in Civil Engineering (MSCE), Electrical Engineering (MSEE), and Mechanical Engineering (MSME).

1988 – The North Carolina Legislature approves special funding for construction of the C.C. Cameron Applied Research Center. The 75,000-square-foot, $6.5-million building will contain a 10,000-square-foot clean room, precision metrology area, and numerous other specialized laboratories for interdisciplinary research.

1990 – The first inter-institutional Ph.D. is awarded to Johnny Graham, who will go on to become a UNC Charlotte professor of Civil Engineering. Research funding jumps from $2.5 million to $4.5 million. Undergraduate enrollment reaches 1,700. The Center for Precision Metrology is formed.

1991 – The Cameron Center opens.

1993 – Engineering starts its first Ph.D. programs, one in Electrical Engineering with research focus areas in microelectronics, optoelectronics and computer systems, and one in Mechanical Engineering with research focus areas in precision engineering, advanced manufacturing and materials engineering.

1994 – The college officially becomes The William States Lee College of Engineering, named for Duke Power CEO Bill Lee.

1995 – The MOSAIC computer project made up of networked Sun workstations is completed. The undergraduate mentoring program begins.

1997 – UNC Charlotte awards its first Ph.D. to Electrical Engineering student Jian Liu. Motorsports courses begin being taught in Mechanical Engineering. Engineering distance learning courses begin.

1998 – Dean Snyder announces he is stepping down as dean. Mechanical Engineering Chair Bob Johnson is appointed interim dean, and then permanent dean. The Electrical Engineering Department changes its name to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The 49ers Legends car racing team wins the first ever Intercollegiate Auto Racing Association National Championship. The School of Information Technology is created along with a Ph.D. program in IT.

1998 – The college holds its first Order of the Engineer initiation ceremony. The Center for Precision Metrology starts work on a subatomic measuring machine.

1999 – The Fire Safety Engineering Technology program starts. The Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering (BSCpE) degree program begins. The Motorsports Concentration officially becomes part of the Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree program.

2000 – The Computer Science Department leaves the College of Engineering. A 28,000-foot addition to the Cameron Center is completed. The Master of Science in Engineering Management program starts. College research tops $5.5 million in external funding. The college holds its first formal picnic, where students and area engineering professionals get the opportunity to network and enjoy good food and outdoor activities.

2001 – The Global Institute for Energy and Environmental Systems is founded. The Center for Optoelectronics and Optical Communications starts. Students graduate from the first cohort of the distance learning program in Electrical Engineering Technology.

2002 – Site work begins on the 100-acre Charlotte Institute for Technology Innovation (this will eventually become the Charlotte Research Institute) campus on Highway 29. Duke Energy donates $10 million in support of the project, which will include the construction of Duke Centennial Hall and Grigg Hall. The bioengineering research program gets a major boost through a $2 million NIH grant. The college holds its first Celebration of Student Achievement Awards ceremony. The Engineering Freshman Learning Community opens in Hawthorne Hall. The 49er race team wins its fifth straight ICARA National Championship.

2003 – The engineering Leadership Academy is established. The North Carolina Junior Engineering and Technology Society starts as a program to promote STEM activities within area middle and high schools.

2004 – In addition to the upper level courses in its traditional 2+2 program, Engineering Technology begins offering freshman and sophomore level classes. The Ph.D. program in Infrastructure and Environmental Systems begins, focused on the interrelationship between infrastructure and the environment at the systems level.

2005 – The 116,000-square-foot Engineering Research Building (which becomes Duke Centennial Hall in 2006 in recognition of the long-standing relationship between Duke Energy and the college of engineering) opens as the new home of Mechanical Engineering, Precision Metrology, Motorsports and the Dean’s Office. The 10,000-square-foot Motorsports Engineering Laboratory (later renamed the Kulwicki Laboratory) opens adjacent to it. Electrical and Computer Engineering moves into the new Science and Technology Building (the building is later renamed Woodward Hall in honor of UNC Charlotte Chancellor James Woodward).

2006 – The Center for Biomedical Engineering Systems (CBES) is established to foster interdisciplinary research between biology and engineering. The Center for Lean Logistics and Engineered Systems (CLEES) is formed and begins work with industry in the area of supply chain management. The Applied Optics and Physics Building (later to become Grigg Hall) opens, with optoelectronic research groups within ECE moving into the building. The North Carolina Motorsports and Automotive Research Center (NCMARC) begins.

2007 – The Civil Engineering Department changes its name to Civil and Environmental Engineering to reflect its growing emphasis on environmental engineering. The Construction Management undergraduate program begins within the Engineering Technology Department, which changes its name to Engineering Technology and Construction Management. The Energy Production and Infrastructure (EPIC) program starts with the mission of educating the next generation of power plant engineers and advancing energy research.

2008 – The North Carolina General Assembly approves construction of a $76-million building to house the EPIC program, and funds reoccurring money to hire new faculty for EPIC. Dr. Steve Patterson is appointed EPIC director. The Infrastructure Design Environment and Sustainability (IDEAS) research center is started.

2010 – 300 students are involved in 96 Senior Design projects. The motorsports lab is named for late NASCAR driver and engineer Alan Kulwicki. College enrollment surpasses 3,000, which is up 32 percent from 2005.

2012 – The 200,000-square-foot EPIC building opens as the home of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the EPIC program. The 16,500-square-foot Motorsports Research Building opens. New undergraduate energy concentrations begin. The Master of Science in Construction and Facilities Management, and Master of Science in Fire Protection and Administration programs start.

2013 – The Master of Science in Applied Energy and Electro-Mechanical Systems program starts. Systems Engineering and Engineering Management officially becomes a college department.

2014 – The mural of Bill Lee is rededicated in its new home in Duke Centennial Hall. The first Engineering Legacy Banquet is held to honor the many contributions of students, faculty and industry partners and celebrate the legacy of the Lee College of Engineering.

2015 – The William States Lee College of Engineering celebrates its 50th anniversary.