March 14, 2016
Up on top of the hill at Western Kentucky University lies the Engineering department, which is headquartered in the Engineering and Biological Sciences building. Nestled in between Snell Hall and EST (an academic structure dedicated to science courses), EBS is not often visited by those who do not have class within its walls. However, a trip through its halls gives visitors an interesting glance into the on-goings of the engineering department. I had the opportunity to take this trip, guided by engineering department head Dr. Julie Ellis.
Walking down the halls, the huge lab located on the bottom floor definitely stands out. The glass walls of this room reach all the way to the top of the building, allowing one to stand on the second floor and watch the activities occurring in the lab. Filled with machinery, on-going projects, and complicated equipment, this lab piques the interest of anyone walking by. On the inside, one can get a closer look at some of the innovative projects WKU engineering students are working on at any given time. During my trip, Dr. Ellis pointed out a large stack of wooden planks. She explained that they were in production as desk modifications for a classroom in the Thompson Complex. A building that holds mostly labs rather than traditional classrooms, the current desks were far too small to be comfortable and useful to students. As a result, engineering faculty Dr. Gordon Smith challenged his students to create some sort of low-budget desk modifications that would help create a better learning environment in these classrooms. Now, his students are working to fix a real-world problem—one that even affects them and their classmates.
I was able to witness several other projects in action, as well. Stopping by a few classrooms, I saw many students busy at work. In one room, students worked on homework while a 3D printer whirred in the background. Eric Weaver, an engineering student, eagerly explained that the printer had been programmed to make small models of the WKU mascot Big Red. Three or four sat out on the table, already completed, while the printer continued the eleven hour process of creating one more softball-sized statue. In the materials lab, a group of students gathered around the concrete canoe, a project that occurs every year for the national concrete canoe competition. Several students sanded the canoe, which had recently been removed from its mold, while another explained the layers of the canoe and the display stand that would be built to go along with it. With regionals approaching in just a few weeks, the team was both nervous and excited to complete their final product.
Seeing engineering students in action helps create an understanding of the department at WKU. Many new students like me may be unaware of what exactly goes on behind the walls of the engineering building. However, after taking a walk around, one can easily see the energy and passion of these students for their field of study. Many students are eager to share about their projects with others, much like their passionate professors, who also love to speak about their courses and the accomplishments of their students. From seeing the construction of the concrete canoe to Dr. Ellis casually mentioning several tennis ball-throwing contraptions in the corner of the room, Western’s engineering department holds many surprises. In the end, one thing is definitely clear—WKU engineering is always up to something! Home to a diverse group of students involved with a variety of projects, WKU Engineering is a busy department with unique assignments occurring at any given moment.
Engineering Sign. Digital Image. Carris Tech. List of Odgen College of Science and Engineering WKU Images. Web. 20 March 2016.
Engineering Building. Digital Image. WKU Map. Engineering and Biological Sciences. Web. 20 March 2016.