New Tools a Boon for Student Projects

The School of Engineering has received a $500,000 grant from the Bashir Hasso Charitable Trust. The trust provided the gift to enhance engineering education by providing the school with new equipment.

With this grant, the School of Engineering has acquired a Mori Seiki computer numerically controlled lathe, a structures lab crane, a rheometer for the fluids lab, materials lab sample preparation equipment, new surveying equipment, and a rapid prototyping (RP) machine.

Of all the new equipment, the RP machine is an exceptional device giving students an advanced tool to create prototypes of their designs. Students in Introduction to Engineering and Machine Design have already used it in classes.

“Even a couple of junior electrical engineering students have used it to create an enclosure for their electronic circuit in Embedded Systems,” says Ralph Stirling, project engineer. “It’s a versatile machine. It can make virtually anything.”

The RP machine is especially valuable to students working on senior projects. Student Robert Van Raden produced a prototype of an impeller for a pedal-powered jet canoe. Student Gabriel Penalba produced a prototype for a cold weather assistance device designed to cover the mouth and nose, and warm air to be inhaled. For this project, Penalba even used the RP machine to produce a model of a face to demonstrate the placement of the device.

Though it sounds complicated, it’s easiest to think of the RP machine as a three-dimensional printer. The machine produces three-dimensional plastic objects from computer-created models. The objects can be individual pieces, or assemblies of parts built together. Even gears can be fabricated such that they are already meshed when the machine is done making them.

“We strive continuously to improve the learning experience,” says Douglas M. Logan, dean of the School of Engineering. “A key part of that experience is our laboratories, where students can connect concepts and designs with the physical reality. Each of these new machines and instruments is a major acquisition for one or another of the labs. The RP machine, in particular, enables a student to create physical prototype of something he or she has designed.” Logan adds, “This equipment has made our labs equal to the very best in any undergraduate engineering school. We really appreciate the Bashir Hasso Trust for making these investments possible.”

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Last update on July 6, 2010