CoE's Student Shop: Providing the best machines for students eager to learn.

"The reasons behind the changes seen in the basement of the Engineering Centers Building."

By Nathan Vogel Photos by Catie Qi Print Design by Jing Li
View of student shop from outside and outdoor expansions.

If you have recently visited the Engineering Centers Building, it would be hard to miss the impressive effort that has been put into upgrading and expanding the Student Shop. No longer having enough room in the main student shop, B1086 has spilled out into the Discovery Area.


Looking over the edge of the main floor of ECB, you can see any number of mills, lathes and other machines occupying most of the space in the Discovery Area. With such an obvious change, many wonder why this is happening and, perhaps even more important, where the money is coming from. The answer: the student body.

Mechanical Engineer student Mason Mok working on his project in the shop

Starting in 2008, students admitted into programs within the College of Engineering have been paying differential tuition. In response to this change, Polygon, the student government body of engineering, took a survey to find what students most wanted to see changed in the College of Engineering. The answer was a way to expand and upgrade the Student Shop.

I don’t see an end in sight; the only thing that would stop us is space

Larry Wheeler

Larry Wheeler, the CoE shops manager and head of the shop expansion, reveals that almost as soon as the differential tuition kicked in, the shop got right to work. The purchasing of new machines began in late 2008 and the beginning of 2009.

Employees in student shop watching camera videos inside the shop.

“There are many machines that have been replaced,” Wheeler says when asked about the new equipment. “We were still dealing with machines that dated back to 1948.” He goes on to say that over the last five years, nearly a million dollars has been spent on the new, state-of-the-art equipment and staff increases. Both of which were necessary to fill the increasing demand that the student shop has seen.

Equipment in the shop.

When he first implemented the permit licensing process, Wheeler says they only gave out 200 shop permits. Since then, the shop has been growing about 30 percent annually, permitting 1300 students just last year. To deal with this increased demand of permits, not only have more machines been purchased, but an entire room near the shop has been dedicated to providing students with the hands-on practice and education not just needed to get permitted to use the shop equipment, but also necessary in industry.

Grad student Baoyun Ge working hard in the student shop.

Two other rooms have been repurposed to serve as space solely for welding. Another room, which has been dubbed the micro-fab room, is used for small parts manufacturing and prototyping. The equipment in this room consists of a small-scale mill, a lathe, and four 3-D printers. To add to the utilization of this room, it has been coupled with a space dedicated to giving students their shop passes and will soon be outfitted with cameras and monitors to enhance the teaching opportunities of the room.

When asked what was coming next, Larry expresses his concerns on the room available in ECB: “I don’t see an end in sight; the only thing that would stop us is space.”

Employees Teddy Kent and Ted Vaulu working on fixing the machine.

Employees in student shop watching camera videos inside the shop.Following an interview was a tour of the improvements that have been the result of this project. Larry’s closing statement about the shop emphasized the worth of the updated student shop: “If people are interested in getting a hands-on education, this is the place to do it, and it would benefit any engineer.” All are welcome to see these improvements, and engineering students are encouraged to participate in the permit process and attend the many seminars that occur each week.