A $600K gift transforms the Carrara Family Fluids Lab at the David Crawford School of Engineering
The Norwich Record | Summer 2019
Last year, finishing touches were made to renovations of the engineering Fluids and ProtoCAM Lab in the basement of Bartoletto Hall. Thanks to generous gifts from Paul ’59 and the late Joanne Carrara over several years, money was in place to update the lab with a new wind tunnel, renovated flume, 3D printer, and a computer-assisted manufacturing lab space. Whiteboards and open, flexible classroom space were added, along with fresh paint, new lighting, and refinished floors — lending the space the distinct vibe of a Microsoft Corp. campus.
The updates have significantly impacted the student experience, says Mechanical Engineering Department Chairman Dr. Danner Friend, an aerospace and manufacturing expert who teaches classes on engineering design and innovation, among others. “[It has] allowed us to be much more experiential in the types of projects and interactions we have our students work on.”
Faculty colleague Dr. Karen Supan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, agrees. Students in first-year engineering design courses can not only design small wind turbines, but print 3D plastic prototypes, and test them in the lab’s new wind tunnel. Some students even used the tunnel while designing a mobile greenhouse system.
“You wouldn’t have thought (so),” Supan says. “But they were testing different materials and their wind strength.”
Dr. Stephen Fitzhugh, who directs the David Crawford School of Engineering, says the greatest asset in the lab isn’t a piece of equipment, but machinist Eric Wood.
“He’s got so much knowledge,” Fitzhugh says. “For our students, he’s the link to the manufacturing department that a company would have. As designer[s], engineers are always thinking, ‘OK, this is a great neat thing, but how’s it gonna be made?’”
The renovated lab and the proximity of manufacturing and testing equipment make hands-on learning easier — especially for senior engineering majors working on their senior capstone design projects.
As faculty advisors, Supan and her colleagues encourage seniors to build early prototypes of these projects — out of boxes, polystyrene foam, Legos, anything.
“We want you to get that thought out of your head,” Supan says. “Because once you start being very tactile with something, you all of a sudden realize, That’s the worst idea I ever made.”
Only then can you refine it and design something great.