Engineering Technology at SHSU

The history of Sam Houston State University is very long and rich with unique students, faculty, and different kinds of stories. It was founded in 1897 and was called Sam Houston Normal Institute. The environment that students are in every day has changed a tremendous amount since then. The campus itself has grown immensely, and the subject matter that is taught has matured and grown into some of the best in the state. Today, SHSU has a department that produces graduates that go into, what some would say would be, the most diverse areas of work out of the entire university. The Engineering Technology Department sends graduates to construction companies, electric companies, the armed services, computer companies, the robotic industry, teaching, and there are even SHSU students who have worked on space satellites for NASA. There are so many things that Sam Houston State Engineering Technology graduates do with their degrees once they leave Sam Houston State University that there is no definite path a student is pushed down; he/she will be able to explore many paths.

There might be some confusion when one hears “Engineering Technology”. It is different than “Engineering”. A student that graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering will have studied more theoretical subjects, therefore, more math, more physics, more “pen on paper” classes. Whereas, a student who has graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology will have studied the basic theoretical subjects that engineering would require, but students will do a lot of more-hands-on classes, where things will actually be built, electric circuits will be created, etc. An engineer will get an entry-level job with a company as an engineer, and a technician will get an entry-level job that involves designing and application of engineering concepts. Either degree is a good one, but they each have their pros and cons. [1]

Sam Houston State University was created in the late 1800s to teach adults how to be able to teach the people of their town’s basic subjects, like reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography. It all helped keep the townspeople somewhat educated. Later in the development of the school, more classes were added. Classes such as agriculture, home economics, blacksmithing, leatherwork, woodwork, etc. became popular since it helped people execute daily tasks that they would have at home (most people worked ranch type lifestyles or simply upkeeping their homes). These classes, that helped students with their everyday lives, were the foundation of some parts of the Engineering Technology department at Sam Houston State University that can be seen today. There were several name changes to the department, some of the names were Manual Arts and Industrial Vocational Education. Some big changes came into the department after World War II. It became more of an Industrial Education Department. The department has always stayed updated with the newest, most useful subjects. As was mentioned earlier, in the beginning, things were more of a sustainability education, and as the years went on, the subjects changed to fit the lives of the people. In the 1960/70s, the department changed into Industrial Technology. In this era, subjects like robotics, the beginning stages of computer science, etc. were taught. Things were mainly focused on the computer aspect of technology; some electronics were taught as well, but people were more interested in the computer science side of the department since computers were a new thing to the world. Things stayed pretty constant in the 1960s and 1970s, maybe some slight changes to the department, but nothing major. In the early 2000s, the number of students in the department dropped down low enough that Sam Houston State University was on the brink of dropping the department from the school entirely. There were only about 150 students in the department, and there were only a few tenured professors. SHSU’s very own Dr. Ullrich, who is still working here today, was the interim chair when this happened. He convinced the school administration to simply give the entire department to the Agriculture Department. From there the Agriculture Department would take over everything: new teachers, recruitment of students, anything that involved the Engineering Technology Department, the Agriculture Department would handle. The new name would be “ The Department of Agricultural and Industrial Sciences”. The student count in the department began to grow each and every year. With the new growth of the department, new professors were hired to account for all the new students. Dr. Yildiz, who is now the chairman of the department, was hired to run the Engineering Technology side of the department. Grants helped get new instruments to use in class and to hire more good professors. Eventually, the Agriculture Department and Engineering Technology Department split back up, due to the growth of both departments. Since about 2016, with the division of the two departments, there have been multiple majors added to the department. There is now Construction Management, Engineering Technology: Concentration in Electronics, Engineering Technology: Concentration in Safety Management, Design and Development, Electronics & Computer Engineering Technology, and Engineering Technology with Teaching Certification. In the next few years, there will also be a master’s program, a mechanical engineering technology major, and others as well.

The Engineering Technology Department has a new building; specifically, for the Engineering Technology related courses and students. One alumni, Fred Pirkle, who invented a widely used and necessary valve. It has changed the way the railway industry has changed over the years. He created a company, Term Omega Tech, which continues to succeed today. Mr. Fred Pirkle passed away in 2012, due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). However, he left his estate to Sam Houston State University. $25 million was donated from the estate; which has built The Engineering Technology Center, hire new faculty, bring in new machines for students, and to give scholarships to students. After two years of construction, the building opened up in early Spring 2017. [2] Today, students use every last bit of the resources that have been donated. Students and faculty use the first floor for different labs; including The Clean Manufacturing & Rapid Prototyping Labs, The Electronics, Power Systems and Automation & Control Labs, the Manufacturing Labs, an Innovations Lab, and offices for students to collaborate while doing extra work. The second floor has a lot of classrooms, The CAD Labs, The Energy Systems Lab, The Wind Tunnel and Robotics Lab, and a memorial for Fred Pirkle and other memorable alumni. The third floor is filled with more classrooms and professor offices, and the fourth floor is for professor offices and administrative offices as well. None of this would be possible without the great donation from Mr. Pirkle. He has left his legacy with SHSU, and he will always be apart of the department, no matter how much it changes. [3]

The Engineering Technology Department is helping bring great workers into the world after graduation. Each year, there are alumni going all over the country and some go to other countries to work. Everyone surely hopes to be able to make the department proud. And in the future, there will hopefully be more alumni that want to help Sam Houston State University’s Engineering Technology Department. There will most likely be more innovations and updates to the department as the years go by. The subject matter may change every now and again, but there will always be a special part of the history of the school for today. Every day, students add to this history. Sam Houston State is a growing University, and there is major growth in the coming years for this school, it can be seen already. However, the traditions and culture of this school will stay far longer than any student.


Interview with Dr. Doug Ullrich Dr. Doug Ullrich is a professor of agriculture at Sam Houston State University. In this interview, the history of Sam Houston State University's Engineering Technology Department is discussed. The progress of the department's facilities and the changes in the material that is taught are also talked about. Creator: Dr. Doug Ullrich & Peter T. Colletti Date: 10/30/2019


Fred Pirkle Engineering Technology Center The most notable part of this building is the balls that are pictured here. At night, they begin to glow in different bright colored lights. Source: Fred Pirkle Engineering Center Information
Fred Pirkle Fred Pirkle is the donor that left a $10 million estate to Sam Houston State's Engineering Technology Department. Source: Fred Pirkle Picture Source
The construction of The Fred Pirkle Engineering Technology Center After Mr. Pirkle's passing in 2012, the construction of his donated building began with the $10 million estate he left for SHSU. Source: Construction of Fred Pirkle Engineering Technology Center
The Electronics Lab This is one of the labs that students actively learn about electronics; using a more hands-on approach than some schools. Source: SHSU ETEC Facilities
SHSU Robotics Lab This is where students work with robotic arms. In this lab, there are also wind tunnels. Source: Robotics Lab
3-D Printers Students can print 3-dimensional objects using these machines, each print can take hours upon hours. However, it is much cheaper to print than it is to buy new versions of what is printed. Source: SHSU 3-D Printers


1019 Bowers Blvd, Huntsville, TX 77340


Peter T. Colletti, “Engineering Technology at SHSU,” East Texas History, accessed February 3, 2023,