New Innovation Floor Stimulates Students’ Creativity

Deep inside the bowels of the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science, burgeoning computer scientists, engineers, and other students work on their various projects like mad scientists, utilizing state of the art 3D printing technology, laser cutters, and even the humble sewing machine. For this edition of Daily College Life, we took a look at the space and talked to a few students using it. The venue: The Ralph and Trish Nagel Innovation Lab.

Located on the bottom floor of the new complex, the Innovation Lab serves as a conduit for students’ engineering creativity. Between undergrads and grads building robots and remotely operated vehicles, you can also find people working on motorcycle parts, sewing clothing, even using the provided area for VR. Best of all, the facilities are open to all students, not just those whose majors coincide with the equipment.

One engineering student, Andrew Stone, was working on a training robot for boxers. Engineered on CNC machines and powered by a small computer called a Raspberry Pi, the device was intended to automate fight training with a virtual trainer. The synthesized voice would tell the boxer to punch left or right, and sensors in the rotating punching target would detect the impact from the boxer’s fist. 

Another student, Sanjana Mohan was working on a quadrotor for her mechatronics class. The four bladed drone was being calibrated for flight weight, so it would remain balanced and stable while in the air. Sanjana extolled the virtues of 3D printing for rapid design and modification, which is what enabled her to create, modify, and test her aircraft quickly.

We then met with Jake Sigmond a bioengineering student who was working with Andrew on his boxing robot. He uses the lab not only for class, but also for personal use, repairing motorcycle parts with the provided tools. He enjoyed the openness of the new facility: “It’s not like the old building where it wasn’t very friendly or inviting, so not a lot of engineers didn’t stick around.”

Kirk Scully, a student in the entrepreneur class used the lab to make his clothing. Sitting at the sewing machine he praised the “incredible” floor and all of the additions to it that made it so useful for students to do their work. “It’s an incredible opportunity and be surrounded by incredible people…and machinery.”  

Students universally praised the open and inviting environment, abundance of cutting edge technology, and secure storage space for their projects. The floor itself is open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 10:00pm as well as Saturday through Sunday from 12:00pm to 10:00pm. The floor is currently home to eight 3D printers (although more are being added), a laser engraving machine, a CNC router, a vacuum thermoformer, a scanner, for scanning real objects to make 3D models, a sewing machine, building kits for computer parts and engineering projects, soldering irons, cameras, as well as a myriad of other tools and accessories for engineering work. 


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