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New Student Innovation Center: Where Creativity Never Takes a Back Seat

February 29, 2012

The quality and variety of Rose-Hulman's co-curricular hands-on projects are on full display -- in spectacular fashion -- inside the new Student Innovation Center (SIC).

        HPV
 

Working On Project: Students exchange ideas while working on developing a human-powered vehicle in the Student Innovation Center.

Opened in September, the 16,000-square-foot facility, located at the northeast end of campus, is now the hotbed of creativity and innovation for several student project groups.  It provides plenty of room for team members to spread out across several well-equipped stations to work on their projects.  Nearby are several machines and meeting rooms, and the Department of Mechanical Engineering's machine shop is a short walk away in Moench Hall.

Activity is happening throughout the day, night, and weekends.  Nighttime supervisors have experience in manufacturing, and students get valuable insight about how to make parts or manufacture them more efficiently.  This has meant that several competition teams are months ahead of last year's schedule.

"Students like how the SIC provides a convenient, clean, and comfortable space for the whole team to work together efficiently," states Daniel Kawano, co-faculty advisor of the Formula SAE race team.

Alongside that team, members of the award-winning Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) team are fabricating parts for the upcoming spring racing season.  Enhancing those efforts has been a new industrial router, with 5 foot-by-10 foot capacity, in the machine shop.  It recently carved a large foam block to create the mold for a side paring for the new vehicle -- a process that took just three hours, saving about 100 hours of production time.

"The SIC represents a huge improvement in our team's facilities," says Michael Moorhead, the HPV team's faculty advisor.  "This year, we have a record number of team members, nearly 25, that were attracted to attending Rose-Hulman because of the team's successes.  It would not have been possible to accommodate all of them in our previous space (in Myers Hall).  When the HPV team was created seven years ago, there were four students who didn't need anything more than a table to work around.  This new space was critical for the continued growth of our team."

Rose Motorsports      

Active Learning Environment: The Student Innovation Center has lots of room for students to get ready to test drive one of Team Rose Motorsports' vehicles.

 

Allen White, faculty advisor of the Rose Efficient Vehicles race team, states: "The SIC allows us to show visitors the number, breadth, and excellence of our co-curricular projects.  In the past, we could tell campus visitors about the many competition teams here.  Now, we can show them and there are always students working in the center who are willing to discuss their project.  I believe all of the teams will benefit from working with each other and seeing how other teams tackle similar problems."

Civil engineering students are taking full advantage of the new facility, having plenty of room to create a concrete canoe for this spring's regional competition.  Meanwhile, the Department of Chemical Engineering's Chem-E-Car project is taking shape for the American Institute of Chemical Engineering's competition later this month.   Students have designed and are constructing a chemically powered vehicle within certain size constraints.  This will be the first time that Rose-Hulman has competed in this national design contest.

A student-faculty committee meets weekly to discuss policies, equipment and operations for the building.  So, in addition to working in the SIC, students have a role on the center's governance.

  "The Student Innovation Center is a natural next step in the hands-on education for which Rose-Hulman is renowned.  
  Placing our competition teams under a common roof has enabled the sharing of knowledge and skills, engendering 
  the co-curricular learning which will make these young men and women the advanced technology innovators for 
  decades to come."

 - Zac Chambers (ME, '94)
     Advanced Transportation Systems Program Director
     Co-Faculty Advisor, EcoCAR 2 Development Project