Amazon develops data center engineering curriculum with Mason


George Mason University is working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to develop a course in data center engineering and expand the opportunities in its senior capstone courses.

stock photo of man in a data center
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Faculty in Mason’s College of Engineering and Computing are developing the ME/ECE 499: Data Center Engineering course, which will be offered for the first time this fall. The course, which will be crosslisted in the Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments, will introduce students to data center infrastructure design, operations, efficiency, cooling, and decarbonization.

Students will learn to design, operate, and maintain the hardware required for complex data center systems. The instructor will bring real-world industry experience into the classroom, and the class will have the opportunity to tour nearby data center facilities.

“We are happy to partner with George Mason University and look forward to utilizing this collaboration to help students engage in critical research,” said Nicholas Lee-Romagnolo, program manager of Workforce and Economic Development at AWS. “Our goal is that the program helps prepare students to enter the tech field after their time at Mason, equipped to create solutions to the challenges faced by data center engineers.”

Through the course, students will gain hands-on experience and learn from experts in the field, such as guest speakers who will discuss data center career paths.

Across the Washington, D.C., metro area, there is a greater need for both mechanical and electrical engineering talent. The data center engineering course will help students gain experience, build on their skills, and prepare to enter the workforce as part of Mason’s commitment to feeding the ever-increasing tech talent pipeline for Virginia and beyond.

Kammy Sanghera, executive director of the Institute for Digital Innovation (IDIA), is coordinating the effort with Liza Wilson Durant, associate dean for strategic initiatives and community engagement in the College of Engineering and Computing.

The data center engineering job market is exploding in Virginia, and our partnership with Amazon to provide real-world, hands-on training in this new area will position Mason engineers with the skills and knowledge to move out and lead in this emerging technical discipline,” Durant said. “Mason's strategic alliance with Amazon is enabling us to embed the skills and knowledge required of the engineer of the future and position our graduates for success.

“We are excited to introduce the data center course and are looking forward to our continued partnership with Amazon,” Sanghera said. “This is another opportunity for Mason and its industry collaborators to provide unique experiences for students to engage in cutting-edge research and obtain the skills necessary to be successful in the ever-growing tech and engineering fields in Virginia and beyond.”

Earlier this year, AWS challenged Mason engineering students to create an evaporative cooler and test the effectiveness of evaporative media. AWS funded students for their design implementation of capstone project. This AWS capstone project was the first of its kind at Mason, and two similar capstones projects are planned for this fall—one in mechanical engineering, another in electrical engineering.

The two projects will be mentored by CEC professors Nathan Kathir and Tolga Soyata respectively, and students will have an opportunity to gain expert technical advice directly from Amazon engineers. The electrical engineering capstone project will give students a hands-on experience building a data center power monitoring system.

“We are looking forward to the Mechanical Engineering capstone this fall,” said Mason professor Leigh McCue, chair of Mason’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “These courses provide our students with opportunities to expand upon what they have learned in class and apply the skills they’ve learned to creating important solutions to real-world problems.”

“We are excited to partner with Amazon and to bring more opportunities for our students to learn, grow, and prepare to become part of the expanding data center engineering industry in Virginia,” said Mason professor Pelin Kurtay, associate chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department, who is leading the effort for ECE.