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The Student Design Center has slowly appeared before our eyes over the course of three months, and is now scheduled to open in late October or early November.

“I have class next door to it at the machine shop,” Curtis Marsh, a senior in aerospace engineering said. “I like it so far. It looks like a hangar.”

Marsh is on the Formula SAE team, which will be going to Michigan International Speedway this May to compete in the design series. He and his teammates, like many other seniors participating in capstone projects, will be spending a lot of time during the spring semester in the new facility.

“I’m aerospace, but I’m working on the mechanical project,” Marsh said. “The other aerospace, like Mars Rover, Mining Bot, all those teams are going to be needing space too.”

Marsh said the machine shop didn’t have a lot of room for all the students to build the parts they needed in the past, and there was a lot of competition for time.

“Having the machine shop and the design center at the same time will be very good,” Marsh said. “It takes time to build parts. That’s mostly why people were complaining in the past.”

The specs:

Florida Tech started designing the building one year ago, and university architects obtained the permit to start construction in March. The metal building arrived in late June.

“It’s gone together fairly rapidly at a cost of just under $1.9 million,” said Greg Tsark, the university architect.

That number includes everything in the project development from construction and planting to furniture and the $1 million donation received from Harris Corporation this January. But the cost to the university for the building was only $900,000 of this total.

“For under a million dollars, it’s a really remarkable asset,” Tsark said.

The facility totals 11,600 square feet, with the main high bay, four smaller project rooms to the side, a lobby, bathrooms, and an ideation room.

“And 8,000 of that is basically a big high bay, which is basically a big high-tech barn,” Tsark said, laughing. “And so in that high bay, we have a lot of room to construct and fabricate whatever you guys dream up.”

In the high bay area are storage racks, a spray booth, an overhead crane, function generators, welding stations, and compressed air and power throughout, which are available in floor boxes.

There will also be storage space for the projects for when they’re not being worked on.

As for the smaller project rooms, Tsark said they’re there are four rooms that are meant for more sensitive projects that don’t necessarily want to be in the messy, dirty high bay space.

“Each project room is designed to hold three teams, so those four project rooms could potentially hold 12 capstone projects.,” Tsark said.

The ideation room will be a kind of brainstorming hangout, complete with a mondopad, floor-to-ceiling whiteboards all the way around the room, and flexible furniture that can be rearranged however students want it.

The detailing in the tile. The equation says, "Power = work over time," which means the power is the rate of which work is done, possibly an inspirational piece of architecture for the students.
The detailing in the tile. The equation says, “Power = work over time,” which means the power is the rate of which work is done, which is possibly an inspirational piece of architecture for the students.

“A nod to our past:”

The branching metal tree on the corner of the building is an architectural nod to our past, present and future.

“The steel tree, it’s kind of a metaphor of two palm trees that we have on our campus,” Tsark said. “And it’s sort of a nod to our past and to our history, our humble beginnings. We thought posting that on the corner of the building would be a nice thing.”

Tsark was referring to the University’s first president, Jerome Keuper, and his passion for collecting Palm Tree Species.

“So it’s like an upside down family tree,” Tsark said.

According to campus lore, Keuper once traveled the world collecting palm tree seeds, which played a role in the founding of the campus’ Botanical Gardens, for their preservation.

Tsark said they plan on growing vines up the tree as well.

Exact opening dates:

As for its exact opening date, Dr. Pierre Larochelle, the associate dean of the college of engineering, is in charge.

“It will certainly open this semester, in all likelihood sometime in late October or November. The exact date is still to be determined,” Larochelle said in an emailed statement.

In a Student Government meeting on Sep. 23, Larochelle said that students would not be able to get card swipe access to the center, and there would always need to be an employee present, but that hours would be extended.

Larochelle also said the hours will be extended during the busy times and build-up to the annual Northrop Grumman Engineering and Student Design Showcase.

Tsark said the center will have a giant illuminated beacon on the outside of the building that will be on to signal when the center is open, and off when the center is closed.

Marsh said the beacon seems like a nice touch, but he’s worried about the hours, and he and his teammates are anxious to start using the facility as soon as possible.

“At the building stage, let’s just say we’ll be like ghosts. We’ll be living inside the machine shop. We’ll be building all night long,” Marsh said. “Because what they say is we have to do what we have to do to make sure it’s successful. There is no failing. We have to get it done.”

Bryan Buckley, a senior in the mechanical and aerospace department, and his team has been tasked with finding root causes of a damaged product and finding a solution to reduce the occurrence of damaged product for a local electronics manufacturing company.

“We are a 4-person team,” Buckley said. “My fellow students have all expressed interest in the new facility and we’re pleased to hear of its scheduled opening this year. A good number of teams desperately need the space.”

Marsh joked that there should be a coffee machine in the new center.

“Past teams have been building up to the hours of the design showcase, haven’t slept in like three or four days,” Marsh said. “They’re like, zombies in the design showcase presenting. This is what we do. People are tired. Lack of sleep. So it’s a lot of work, but it’s engineering.”

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