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Alum’s generosity fuels innovation

Ohio State’s one-of-a-kind Experiential Engineering Education (E3) program, which trains undergraduates in innovation and product development, now boasts a top-of-the-line Innovation Lab to enable students to bring their creative ideas to life. 

A student checks on-screen specifications for a CNC machine project.E3 program students have access to a multitude of prototyping tools—including this CNC machine.

Managed by the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME), the E3 program prepares students for industry with hands-on, apprentice-type experiences in advanced manufacturing, problem-solving and product design.

“Students work as a functional member of the engineering team. They might start out doing things like literature searches, assembling prototypes or taking apart components,” explained CDME Executive Director Nate Ames. “As they matriculate through their academic program they take on more responsibility. In most cases, at the point of graduation they’re leading their own projects.”

Thanks to the Bernice L. Claugus Engineering Innovation Fund, generously donated by chemical engineering alumnus Ed Claugus ’81 in his estate, E3 students now have access to a first-class Innovation Lab designed to fuel collaboration, learning and innovation.

“There’s no way we could have created the Innovation Lab without donor funding,” said Ames. “This enables us to further support undergraduate students and the land-grant mission of the university.”

Students in the E3 program have 24/7 access to the unrestricted space. It’s also open to other Ohio State students to use for capstone projects, funded research activity, student organization work and even personal entrepreneurial pursuits.

The 5,000-square-foot facility features a large, open room with movable tables and chairs that can be used as a workspace or to host lectures and special events. There is also a separate video conferencing center, complete with a TelePresence MX system contributed by Cisco, a conference room, a prototyping laboratory and a break room with a kitchen.

“For my team, it’s our home base. It has nice lighting and a good vibe,” explained Ariel Gluck ’22, a mechanical engineering major. “The setup makes it easy for us to break off, work on separate tasks, and then come back together and have face-to-face interaction.”

Two students stand next to a machine while discussing a project.E3 program students work and collaborate in the Innovation Lab.Having one-stop access to prototyping tools—including machining and woodworking equipment such as a CNC router and laser engraver, 3D printers and electrical tools—has been valuable for electrical and computer engineering major Michael Wilson ’20. While working on an industry-funded project to use a robot to automate safety inspections of radioactive materials during shipping, he’s gained experience with programming as well as electrical engineering skills like wiring, and testing digital inputs and outputs.

“I’ve probably learned almost as much through working here as I learned taking my classes,” Wilson said. “The hands-on experience is so different than the classroom experience. It’s very valuable.”

It’s a space that Scott Osborne, Ohio State’s vice president of economic and corporate engagement, considers a model for the university.

“This is the kind of innovation space we’d like to see recreated throughout campus to help prepare our students to be the industry-ready problem solvers of tomorrow that employers need.”

If you would like to support the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence's programs and work, please consider making a gift to the CDME Excellence Support Fund.

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications, clevenger.87@osu.edu