Russ College and Kenworth Truck Company celebrate 24 years of student collaboration

Published: March 30, 2023 Author: Chloe Musick

Senior design projects are a vital part of each student’s experience as a Bobcat in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology. Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) students work collaboratively to practice their skills on real world problems for companies and organizations that volunteer to host students to experience hands on learning. This year, Kenworth Truck Company and ISE celebrate a 24-year partnership, hosting 100 students in senior design projects at Kenworth Truck Company, a manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks.

This partnership emerged in 1999, when Ross Wagner, BSISE’ 97, was asked to join OHIO’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering advisory board. Wagner was a recent graduate of the program who started his career at Kenworth Truck Company (a subsidiary of PACCAR Inc.) in Chillicothe, Ohio. When there was a need to identify new sites for senior design projects, Wagner saw the opportunity to build a connection between his alma mater and his employer. 

Wagner worked with his supervisor to develop a plan that benefitted OHIO students who wanted to engage in experiential learning and the goals of Kenworth. The company covered lunch and mileage for the students as they worked on their real-world projects. At the end of the semester, the students did a final presentation and Kenworth offered merchandise as tokens of their appreciation. 

Over the course of 20 years, Wagner, his colleagues and faculty in ISE have honed this senior design capstone experience to focus on problems that need innovative solutions. Additionally, there is a mentoring component to the program, so students have a Kenworth mentor onsite and very often, their mentor is also an OHIO graduate who completed their senior design project with Kenworth. 

“We are typically giving the students side projects that we don’t always have time to conquer. For example, last year, senior design student Carolyn Rhodes and her team, explored the dock utilization on the southside of the factory to determine how many docks we needed. We took their recommendation to our superiors and now have capital funding to add new docks,” said Wagner, who has since been hired as a full-time manufacturing engineering at Kenworth.


Other projects have explored RFID tags, leak protection strategies, installation of new technology and more. In many cases, the senior design project serves as an opportunity for students to get their foot in the door at Kenworth, and simultaneously, for Kenworth to identify new talent that they want in their facilities. As students jump from their senior design projects to taking a job with Kenworth after graduation, they often restart the cycle and become mentors for future senior design projects. 

“The ISE capstone project is one of the most important experiential learning components in the ISE curriculum. The projects from Kenworth have always been well-scoped and highly relevant to ISE. Those projects give our students invaluable opportunities to apply ISE skills learned in classroom to make real impacts. The mentoring program provided by Kenworth is especially invaluable to our students. By working with those mentors, our students gain real-world skills that help prepare them to become emerging ISE professionals,” said Tao Yuan, chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

This partnership with Kenworth Truck Company has proven invaluable over the past 24 years. Students have not only been able to gain hands on experience in engineering, but they also have been able to work on projects that make a difference at the company. They are solving real world problems as members of the Kenworth team. 

To celebrate this partnership, Kenworth is hosting a small celebration on April 28, 2023. Those who have been vital members of the partnership — Kenworth leaders, ISE faculty and students — will be invited to celebrate. 

“As we move into the future, I hope to sustain the relationship with Ohio University and sustain the vision of the program with Kenworth,” said Wagner. 

Kenworth Truck Company is the manufacturer of The World’s Best® heavy and medium duty trucks. Learn more about Kenworth at Kenworth is a PACCAR company.