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Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science & Engineering

Outdoor Industry Engineering Pathway


Western Colorado University’s cutting-edge Outdoor Industry Engineering (OIE) research and emphasis area is a unique, state-of-the-art program focused on gear testing and standardization for the outdoor industry. A first-of-its-kind program, the OIE research area equips students with the skills they need to design and enhance outdoor recreation gear testing, in turn, advancing the industry.

The goal of this program is to better understand gear and gear performance related to the outdoor industry by normalizing and standardizing equipment for testing gear.

The program does this by:

  • Designing, prototyping, and building static and dynamic testing equipment for class projects and senior capstone projects, as well as through summer internships and research experiences for students.
  • Building out a lab, including equipment, for testing.
  • Collecting, interpreting, and publishing data so consumers can make more informed purchase decisions when it comes to gear.

For testing of outdoor gear, the program takes a circular approach, creating static and dynamic testing systems in the lab, in parallel to outdoor field testing. It then relates this data back to qualitative expert product reviews from Blister to gain better understanding of gear performance. The combination of the in-lab and in-field testing systems, along with data analytics, and expert qualitative reviews will allow program participants to better understand the reasoning behind product performance to make better informed decisions about the products they are using and purchasing.

Why Consider the Outdoor Industry Engineering Pathway?

The outdoor recreation industry is still fairly new in its conception, but already it generates $788 billion in annual revenue and creates over 5 million jobs each year. The industry is slated to continuously grow in future years and, as a result, will demand data analysts and engineering capabilities, capable of linking quantitative research to qualitative results. The Outdoor Industry Engineering research area will set students ahead of their peers and prepare them to be part of the first generation of engineers whose goal is to improve outdoor recreation equipment through the developing universal performance standards. This pathway can help students combine their affinity for the outdoors with a lucrative and in-demand degree to help them pursue an area of engineering that they’re truly passionate about.

How it Works

Students pursuing this research area take three elective courses focused on:

  • Developing and testing of outdoor gear.
  • Developing testing systems to collect data and apply data analytic skills to optimize outdoor gear.
  • Collaborating with industry partners to work on real-world applications.

In addition to taking these core classes, students also complete a year-long senior capstone project in which they put their classroom knowledge of outdoor industry-focused engineering into a collaborative, hands-on team project. Students also have the opportunity to apply for internships with industry partners related to this research.

Program Eligibility

Students interested in participating in this new program must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering or Computer Science Partnership Program

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