Students raise objections to Engineering facilities moving to think[box]

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department to hold open forum Dec. 4

Dean Jeffrey Duerk, the dean of the Case School of Engineering, announced at his “State of the School” address two weeks ago that the School of Engineering, in collaboration with Sears think[box], is planning to move lab equipment from the existing Bingham Student Workshop into the Richey Mixon Building, to create a new and expanded version of the lab.

The school also plans to move some of the equipment from Reinberger Design Studio (RDS) to think[box] to create a new academic space, “[ensuring] tight coupling between design and manufacturing.” Much of the RDS machining equipment will remain on the eighth floor of Glennan.

This announcement was met with backlash from students in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department, who have priority access to the equipment in RDS and Bingham, and who worry that their access will be limited if the equipment is moved.

An open forum about the potential move will occur this Friday, Dec. 4, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Glennan 421. Dean Duerk will be available for questions, so students with questions or concerns are encouraged to attend.  

The open forum comes as a result of two students: fourth-year Hillary Bunnelle and third-year Kayla Andersen, students within the mechanical and aerospace engineering department who were especially concerned about this possible change.

They began a petition in response to the announcement that requested, “formal communication between the University, think[box], and the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering students regarding the move of Reinberger Design Studio,” and “the retention of the Reinberger Design Studio by the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department in the Glennan Building for the use of its students.”

Bunnelle and Anderson were concerned primarily with the possibility of a loss of after-hours access to RDS, which, according to students, is essential for the completion of coursework. They are also worried about the potential loss of the tight community the location of the studio generates, as it is in close proximity to fellow students and department faculty in its current location in Glennan.

The equipment in the Bingham Student Workshop and RDS is used in several classes that are required for mechanical and aerospace engineering majors: EMAE 160, Mechanical Manufacturing; EMAE 290, Computer-Aided Manufacturing; and EMAE 390, Advanced Manufacturing Technology. The labs are also used in several senior design courses and by students for extracurricular projects and competitions.

Michael Connerton, a second-year mechanical engineering major, felt that the biggest problem wasn’t necessarily the move, but the lack of information surrounding it.

“I think it’s become more a big deal because we had to find out through other students,” Connerton said. “And the main reaction to this is because none of the students were informed as much as they should have been in the first place. People are now reacting against it because they feel like they’ve just been blindsided to the fact that the classes they’ve been taking for years are now being moved over to this new location.”

Kevin Talbot, a third-year mechanical and aerospace engineering major and teaching assistant at the Bingham Student Workshop, agrees that the possibility of this should have been made more clear to the students who will be impacted.

“The biggest problem has been the lack of transparency with these plans, because this has a huge affect on our coursework and our ability to complete our coursework, and we have had no communication.”

This sentiment has been well-received the by the university, which has responded with the RDS open forum. The goal of the forum is to have a positive and constructive dialogue, with Duerk providing a brief overview of the current plans for RDS and more details on the planned move, then opening the room up to students, to allow them to ask questions and raise any concerns they may have.