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Agricultural Science renovations near completion

September 28, 2016

The finishing touches on the new Design and Innovation Center labs for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) are nearly complete for the fall semester.

“We’re about 99.9 percent finished,” said Dean Olson, associate dean of CAFES and a professor of agricultural engineering technology. The ag engineering technology program is one of two that will be utilizing the newly renovated lab spaces this year, the other being Agricultural Engineering, a new program as of this semester, according to eSIS.

The Design and Innovation Center consists of a collection of rooms in the southwest corner of the Agricultural Engineering Annex (the southernmost wing of the Agricultural Science building), each of which has been designed for a different aspect of the engineering process. It starts in the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) lab, where students take the first glimmer of an idea and begin digitally drafting the plans for it.

“CAD is really the start of most design engineering processes,” Olson said. “You can electronically build [a machine] down to each and every part, and then you can do engineering analysis on it.”

Students can perform computerized stress tests on new designs, optimize the amount of materials needed to build the finished product and ensure that each part fits correctly before actually beginning the building process. These facilities existed before the renovations began over the summer, but the technology has since been updated and the capacity of the room expanded from 24 to 32 seats.

Andrew McLean is a junior ag engineering technology major who has had classes in the CAD lab in years past. The new CAD lab, he said, is an improvement over the old.

“I always felt like it was just an extra place to sit and socialize before lab, but now it actually feels like a classroom,” McLean said.

In addition to the renovations in the CAD lab, space is being set aside for an Additive Manufacturing and Conceptual Room, which will include 3-D printing and virtual reality technologies through which students can further plan how their engineering projects will function in the real world.

“You can put yourself in the seat of that tractor,” Olson said, which allows a student to test the workings of their designs for factors like the ability to see while driving and to reach steering mechanisms.

The neighboring electrical and instrumentation lab has also been expanded to accommodate bigger class sizes, and the technology is in the process of being updated to allow students to study farm equipment computer programming. A smaller computer lab has also been added for students wishing to work on projects while the CAD lab is full, as the computer programs in the lab are typically expensive and difficult to run on most laptops.

All that is left to do for the overall renovations is to move in equipment for the Additive Manufacturing and Conceptual Room and to finish off odd touch-up jobs. There have been considerations for future projects regarding the renovation of the old, underutilized wood shop in the Ag. Engineering Annex, but Olson estimates that it will be two to three years before those plans begin to get under way.