Students help redesign Van Deusen lab

Leslie Arntz

The sharp swish of a retracting measuring tape cuts over the voices of the six students at a work table.

Rather than sitting in a classroom, listening to a lecture for their Facility Design and Material Handling class, the students sit in the middle of their project: the metal casting lab in Van Deusen Hall.

The students are drafting a redesign for the space, using what they learn in class and applying it to a real space with real problems.

“(We’re doing) something closer to home,” said associate professor Verna Fitzsimmons. “We’re using our experience to fix our own.”

In addition to the foundry and equipment for metal casting, the room houses other large pieces of machinery used in metal and woodworking.

“It’s shop class on steroids,” said Kathleen Flower, junior industrial technology major.

Glenn Beard, senior general technology major, said the redesign has been long overdue.

“Stuff, equipment has all been in here forever,” he said. “Old stuff is shoved in here with new stuff. And adding stuff with no more space just makes more and more clutter.”

And so, the redesign emerged as a potential solution to the clutter. Each of the students worked in the lab previously and is familiar with it and its problems.

“They’ve experienced the good, bad and the ugly,” Fitzsimmons said. “This is an opportunity to make things better for other students.”

She said the best way to learn the engineering principles she teaches is through a hands-on approach.

“We read about it, learn about and do it right away,” she said.

Najah Pruden, senior general technology major, said the students are learning as they go.

The class is most concerned about safe and logical use of space.

“We want to make things lineal,” said Mark Heschelman, post-undergraduate general technology major. “We want to keep things going A-B-C, not B-A-C-D. Backtracking is not productive.”

Doors open at both ends of the room, and people often use them as a shortcut. Students said distractions are the number one lab problem. The new plan will include traffic flow patterns for workers. And, the student designers hope to stop the extra use of the exits.

At the end of the semester the students will present their plans to Raj Chowdhury, the dean of the College of Technology and Assistant Professor Mike Dragomier for approval.

Contact College of Technology reporter Leslie Arntz at [email protected].