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Oct. 6, 2022

MSU opens new collaborative engineering student space

Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., and other university leaders officially introduced a new $4 million, one-story facility during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 6.

The William A. Demmer Engineering Center will provide an on-campus facility for registered student organizations in the College of Engineering. The 10,000-square-foot building is located near the corner of Farm Lane and Mount Hope roads, adjacent to the MSU Scene Shop Teaching Lab on the south end of campus.

“This new center is a wonderful example of how our university’s new strategic plan is helping students,” Stanley said. “This facility is clearly adding an innovative and inspiring space for future engineers to work together outside of their classes.”

Stanley offered thanks to William and Linda Demmer for their generosity and loyal support of Michigan State and the College of Engineering.

President Stanley and students

The heart of the new Demmer Engineering Center will be an open shop area, where walls and barriers will be kept to a minimum to create flexibility for current and future projects. Core features of the space include a machine shop, computer numerical control, dynamometer space and a ventilated chamber for composite materials work. A dedicated conference space will allow collaboration among team members, faculty members and visiting professionals.

A modern design center will feature a bank of computers and equipment — such as plotters and 3D printers — allowing students to apply their technical expertise and creativity on new or redesigned projects.

Riley Lawson, a senior in electrical engineering and advanced mathematics, is the current president of the Engineering Student Council. He is also the chief engineer for STARX, a student organization that builds by hand exoskeletons that will someday help firefighters carry heavy equipment in difficult terrains or emergency situations.
Riley Lawson

“When space limitations forced our sub teams to work in various locations around campus, we encountered integration difficulties because development wasn’t done in parallel. The William A. Demmer Engineering Center offers us the space to collaborate on a more cohesive exoskeleton and easily exchange knowledge and experiences with other student organizations. On behalf of the many students who will thrive in this space, I’d like to thank the Demmers and many others for recognizing our need and committing to student success.”

MSU Provost Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., said the new facility will reinforce the engineering curriculum, enable faculty to extend learning in innovative ways and increase accessibility for students.

“This center will bring together academia and industry to prepare future leaders who will graduate ready to help solve the tough challenges we face as a society,” Woodruff noted.

Trustee Kelly Tebay said she already feels a special connection to the facility. Her spouse, Adam Zemke, was a mechanical engineering student on the Formula Racing Team during his time at MSU and knows the significance of students having quality workshop resources.

“The innovative spirit of the College of Engineering’s students is a pride point for MSU,” Tebay said. “I want to congratulate Dean Kempel and the faculty on their mentorship of these students and for getting us to this day.”

Engineering Dean Leo Kempel said he is grateful to the Demmers for their leadership gift to the project, which will help students engage in engineering from the very beginning of their academic careers.

“This beautiful facility cracks open new opportunities for engineering student organizations and the faculty who guide them,” Kempel said. “The William A. Demmer Engineering Center is surely a gem for fostering hands-on learning and team-building skills. I can already predict it will add to the richness and value of the Spartan Engineering experience.
“We owe a debt to engineering technician Roy Baliff, who retired in 2021, and who worked with students for decades as they learned through doing,” Kempel added. “Roy likes to say that the best part of working in education is seeing students succeed. Our students will do that in this important addition to our college infrastructure.”

Other features in the new facility include a testing area to test and conduct performance analysis, tolerances and vehicle aerodynamics; a machine shop for hands-on design and building; fabrication area for using tools such as welders and jigs or putting multi-part pieces together such as A-arms or chassis in a safe and spacious area; a composite room for lay-up and molding of custom parts, and a manager’s office. 

The new facility will be served by the CATA bus line and is accessible by bike or car.

By: Patricia Mroczek

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