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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

A nucleus for student ideas

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From workstations to presentation rooms, from computers to a fully operational machine shop, the Engineering Innovation Center has more than 20,000 square feet of resources to provide to students.
The EIC greeted its inaugural year with a wide purpose — to provide engineering undergraduates at Texas A&M the space and means to build anything they could dream of. With collaborative areas and design computers backed by a suite of fabrication tools, A&M administrators hope the EIC becomes a focal point for student creativity.
Prasad N. Enjeti, associate dean for Undergraduate Programs, said the EIC is a location where engineering students come together to share ideas and work on projects.
“This is our first year — we have about a thousand students who have access to the facility,” Enjeti said. “We hope this will become a nucleus where students will want to go there and want to bring their ideas and do things beyond what we are trying to do right now.”
Rodney Boehm, an industry mentor, said the EIC helps bring together the various fields of engineering that normally would not interact.
“You may have an electrical engineering student working right next to mechanical engineering and they look at the others project and they go, ‘Oh you’re stuck here, I might be able to help you solve that,’” Boehm said. “You get that natural interaction.”
Enjeti said the EIC is a place where students should always be able to go to if they need to work on a project because the EIC has the resources to help them.
“They can check out tools on a temporary basis, they can check out some electronic equipment on a long-term basis, whole semester usage,” Enjeti said. “There are locking cabinets, where the students when they go to class they can lock there hardware in the same table and keep the tabletop clean. They can reserve big screen TVs, they can prepare presentations, practice presentations, talk to industry members, faculty members and have a relationship with different teams.”
Magdalini Lagoudas, executive director of industry and nonprofit partnerships, said the goal of the EIC is to promote improvement by providing students with something beyond resources — the opportunity to tackle real-world problems.
“We are trying to bring students from across the [engineering] college to work on multi-disciplinary projects,” Lagoudas said. ”Overall, we are trying to have them work on real-world problems and we are trying to empower them by giving them access to the tools and teaching them things that will help them produce more innovative solutions.”
Enjiti said in addition to tools, the EIC gives the opportunity for students to share what they know and learn from others.
“The EIC has one class being offered there, but there are also a great number of ‘pop-up’ classes,” Enjiti said. “The pop-up classes could be student-taught, or they could be faculty-taught, or staff-taught. These are non-credit-giving courses — it could be something from learning how to use a 3D printer to building circuit chips from scratch.”
James Wilson, facility manager, said the EIC offers access based on project-based criteria.
“We have a criteria we start with,” Wilson said. “Starting with senior design projects who are working on projects as a team, then we look at our peripheral projects like the Aggie Challenge and the EPICS, the engineering in public service groups, then we look at individual student requests that are working on a project-based design or need help with a particular class project that they are working on.”
Enjiti said another benefit of the EIC is that it promotes industry involvement at A&M.
“The industry can come in and visit the EIC — they can see a whole picture,” Enjiti said. “They see, ‘Oh yeah, if I sponsor a project through the EIC I could have a student from mechanical, electrical, aerospace and chemical work on this problem.’ Before they had to go to one department and it was not a simple place, and this is simple.”
The EIC is planned to move into the Engineering Education Complex following the Zachry building’s renovation scheduled to begin next year. Enjiti said both the EEC and the EIC have an engineering focus, and the new Zachry will be based around undergraduates.
“All of new Zachry is going to have an undergraduate focus,” Enjiti said. “Right now Zachry has research and all of that, so research is moving out of Zachry and the undergraduates are coming back. Since the EIC is a serious undergraduate focus it’s coming back.”
The Engineering Innovation Center is intended to foster inderdisciplinary interaction.
Photo by John Sheen.

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