Green Bay, Wis.—On Feb. 20, 2020, the UW-Green Bay community celebrated the installation and demonstration of $1.5 million in equipment delivered to the Brown County STEM Innovation Center to help prepare the next generation of engineers and others headed into STEM careers.
Equipment was manufactured from the company TecQuipment, which is based in the United Kingdom, and was delivered and installed by provider LAB Midwest (Mequon, Wis.). The celebration included comments from LAB Midwest CEO Renee Kirchner and UW-Green Bay College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) Dean John Katers, followed by demonstrations.
Assistant Prof. Jagadeep Thota (Mechanical Engineering) was in charge of researching, selecting and ordering the equipment. “The process started two-and-a-half years ago,” explains Thota. “When trying to get the Mechanical Engineering program approved, we needed to first show a plan and budget for the equipment.”
Once the Innovation Center was built, Thota had the approval to start purchasing the equipment, and almost all equipment has been ordered and installed. “We haven’t completely finished.” he said. “About 90 percent is complete. For the other 10 percent, some has been purchased and is on the way, and some still needs to be purchased.”
There are currently more than 100 pieces of laboratory equipment to fill four labs and a machine shop in the STEM Center. Notable equipment to be on display on Feb. 20, 2020 includes turbines, which take energy from fluid motion and convert it to mechanical energy; a fluid flow channel, which allows students to better understand the fluid dynamics; and a tension and hardness testing machine, which tests how hard a material is and can also characterize them for mechanical properties. In addition to the TecQuipment, a Stratasys 3D printer will also be demonstrated to the public.
“What a great day for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and for the entire state of Wisconsin!” said LAB Midwest CEO Renee Kirchner. “LAB Midwest has the opportunity to work with colleges and universities across seven Midwestern states and we see many different programs and many approaches to teaching engineering disciplines. Not only is UW-Green Bay’s Mechanical Engineering program the only Mechanical Engineering program in Northeast Wisconsin, its engineering lab is among the very best equipped in the entire country.”
The equipment has real-world applications for the students using them, Thota says. For example, the turbines are often found in hydroelectric plants and students can get hands-on experience with machines before entering the job market.
The equipment delivery plays an important role in contributing to STEM-related endeavors in Northeast Wisconsin.
“The STEM area is very much in demand, and the job market is good in the area,” Thota said. “The equipment allows students to get practical experience for the work force.”
Thota shared his enthusiasm for the new equipment and the opportunities it will provide for UW-Green Bay and the community. His ambitious goals include helping students get hands-on experience with equipment they may be using in the workforce and making the UW-Green Bay Mechanical Engineering program into one that is highly rated and nationally recognized.
“In addition, its our hope that having this top-notch equipment will influence more students to attend UW-Green Bay and continue to stay in Northeast Wisconsin and make contributions to the community,” Thota said. “We don’t want to lose talent in the area. This program is a good way for students to give back to the region and state and will be a good pipeline for companies to hire locally.”
Thota is especially excited to share the new equipment with the community. He states, “this would not be possible without the community’s help. They have been excited and very supportive of the process; they should see what we invested in.”
Kirchner says her company is excited to help future engineers hone their skills.
“As I pursued my engineering education, labs like these didn’t exist in either my undergraduate or my post graduate programs,” she said. “And while I am eternally grateful for what I learned in those programs, the truth is that exposure to hands-on learning opportunities such as those provided in these labs would have made me a much better engineer, especially early-on in my career. How fortunate are the current and future students of UW-Green Bay, who will hone their engineering skills and knowledge on cutting edge engineering equipment?
“We work with industrial and technology employers across the country and they all tell us the same thing. The ability for an engineer to not only understand engineering theory, but to engage with technical hardware in a hands-on fashion, is one of the most valuable and sought- after traits in new engineers. These state-of-the-art engineering labs will specifically equip this program’s students with that experience, positioning them to add tremendous value to their employers and our economy as they move on to what comes next after they earn their degrees.”
The media event began at 12:15 p.m. followed by photo and video opportunities with tours and simultaneous equipment demonstrations. The public was welcome from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. for building tours, STEM related activities with Brown County, UW-Extension and 4-H, Einstein Project Open House and equipment demonstrations with UW-Green Bay Engineering faculty and students.
Press release by Emily Gerlikovski, Marketing and University Communication student assistant.
Click to advance slideshow or view the album on Flickr.
– Photos by Dan Moore, Marketing and University Communication