Hongseok Choi of Clemson University is the winner of an award that recognizes his three-year effort to connect engineering students with manufacturers across South Carolina.

Hongseok Choi, left, works in his lab in the Fluor Daniel Engineering Innovation Building at Clemson University.

Hongseok Choi, left, works in his lab in the Fluor Daniel Engineering Innovation Building at Clemson University.

The international professional engineering society SME has selected Choi for a 2016 Distinguished Faculty Advisor Award.

Choi, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, helped found SME’s student chapter at Clemson and continues to serve as the faculty advisor as it heads into its third year this fall.

“I’m deeply honored,” he said. “It’s a nationwide award, a recognition of the Clemson student chapter. SME is a very large international organization filled with talented engineering people. I appreciate all the Clemson chapter members, especially the efforts of our student officers and three presidents.”

When Choi arrived on campus, he was surprised to find there was no SME student chapter and began working with a student to form one. The Clemson chapter, S353, was established in 2014 with 13 students.

“Now we have 43,” Choi said.

Students have toured manufacturing facilities, including those at BMW, General Electric, Itron, Proterra, and Michelin. They have monthly meetings and invite professionals from industry to speak about their products, company and work experiences.

While the chapter is based on Clemson’s main campus, Choi has also reached out to engineering students at the Lowcountry Graduate Center in North Charleston, where Clemson offers a few graduate-level engineering degree programs.

High-tech classrooms connect the Lowcountry Graduate Center and Clemson’s main campus. When a professional gives a talk in Clemson, students in North Charleston can watch, listen and ask questions in real time.

The converse is also true. A speaker who works at Cummins in Charleston once gave a talk at the Lowcountry Graduate Center, and students in Clemson tuned in remotely.

Choi said that reaching out to North Charleston helps the chapter include more students and companies in its activities.

“I’d like our student chapter to be a pipeline to industry,” he said. “It’s important to build a bridge between engineering/science students and their potential employers.”

SME, a nonprofit that used to be called the Society for Manufacturing Engineers, serves the manufacturing industry by promoting advanced manufacturing technology and developing a skilled workforce. The student chapter in Clemson is open to all engineering students.

Choi said he plans to create a design competition for advanced casting, as one of the annual activities of the Clemson student chapter.

He is also working with a former Ph.D. student to establish a SME student chapter at Francis Marion University in Florence, where the former student is now on the faculty. The two chapters would use the program at Lowcountry Graduate Center as a model for broadcasting each others’ talks.

Melur “Ram” Ramasubramanian, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, congratulated Choi on the award.

“This is a well-deserved,” Ramasubramanian said. “Dr. Choi saw a need for a local chapter, filled it and has helped it grow. His efforts are helping widen the talent pipeline from Clemson University to manufacturers across the state.”