Student Design Center officially opens to students

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A silken sheet floats to the ground, revealing bold stylized letters spelling out “Panther Works:” this is the new Harris Student Design Center.

It was constructed to help students safely work on their projects, and had its ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 20. The hour-long ceremony featured speakers including the architect Greg Tsark, President Anthony Catanese, Dean of College of Engineering Martin Glicksman, and the Associate Dean Of Engineering Pierre Larochelle.

With special guests Alton D. Romig Jr., the executive officer of The National Academy of Engineering, and William M. Brown, the CEO of Harris Corporation, who made it all possible with its $1 million donation to Florida Tech.

Romig spoke of how the new Harris Design Center reminds him of Skunk Works, the Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Program facilities: “Where engineers can roll up their sleeves and get things done.”

After his presentation, Romig presented President Catanese with a National Academy of Engineers challenge coin. Then together with Brown, they cut the red ribbon showing that the center is open, and ready to get work done.

The brand new 11,535 square foot facility took 6 months to construct. With a budget of 1.89 million dollars the center is fully furnished. This includes work stations, welding stations, a paint booth, and much more.

“What we found was a lot of the students were working on their design projects off campus, unsupervised,” said Chase Brown, the project manager with Facilities. “So this new center gives them a space to come and work on their projects safely.”

The new Student Design Center delivers, opening with a massive 16 foot by 20 foot hydraulically operated door to an impressive open work area of 8,400 square feet: more than enough space for multiple groups to work on large projects at the same time.

Overhead, a two-ton chain hoist crane runs the length of the building, from the entrance straight into the paint booth for easy transportation of heavy projects through the facility. With many different projects being constructed, some too large to take home, a plentiful storage area is provided with lockers and pallet rack enclosures. For smaller, more intricate assemblies, air conditioned rooms outfitted with fume extractors are available for such tasks as soldering, and other fine work.

The student design center even provides space for planning. A room referred to as the “Ideation Room” has walls that are floor-to-ceiling white boards. One unique part of this project is that Florida Tech acted not only as the owner but the architect and general contractor as well.

“I think that aligns well with the ‘Human Touch’ approach here at FIT,” said Brown.

“For the last fifteen years, the College Of Engineering has been planning this and finally it’s here,” said Larochelle. “It’s very rewarding and we’re very excited for our students to make full use of this facility.

With the help and support of the College of Engineering staff, Florida Tech students will make good use of the new facility.