The Beavers, a Los Altos, Calif., heavy-construction group, has received its first funding installment from Caterpillar Inc. as part of a four-year challenge to raise money for engineering education. Since kicking off last year, the campaign has generated more than $750,000.

For every $2 the Beavers raise through 2017, the equipment firm will match $1—up to a total of $1 million—according to Lynn Barr, chairman of Beavers Charitable Trust and managing member of the Pendleton Group, Santa Rosa, Calif. This will fund scholarships for students and teaching positions for engineers with extensive practical experience.

"This partially funds [the professor's] salary, and [that professor] is charged with making sure that heavy construction is represented in the curriculum," said Barr at the Beavers' annual dinner on Jan. 16 in Los Angeles, where Caterpillar presented the group with a $250,000 check.

In addition to the Beavers' ongoing fund-raising for engineering scholarships, a program it started in 1977, members said they want to help place practitioners in the engineering schools to ensure that students are exposed to the most up-to-date information about the industry and keep them interested in the profession through graduation.

"Certainly, for us and our students, that element of practice is really important," said Leah Jamieson, dean of engineering at Purdue University. "Having that while they are studying, I think, they'll stay engineers for the rest of their lives."

As a participating school, Purdue has established a $1.3-million endowment that is funded, in part, through a $500,000 contribution from the Beavers; the school is searching for a faculty candidate for the fall semester. It hopes later to hire additional professors of practice.

Other participating schools include Oregon State University, University of Washington, Texas A&M University, Arizona State University and University of Colorado.