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Hands On, 24/7 Virginia Tech's Joseph F. Ware, Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

TIME 4: Pedagogy

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.660.1 - 9.660.13

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Paper Authors

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Odis Griffin

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2566

Hands On, 24/7 – Virginia Tech’s Joseph F. Ware, Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory

Odis Hayden Griffin, Jr. Professor and Head, Department of Engineering Education Director, Joseph F. Ware, Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University Blacksburg, Virginia 24061


This paper details the design, renovation, and approximately six years of operation of a hands-on undergraduate student projects laboratory with approximately 400 undergraduate students authorized to use the lab during a given semester. Approximately 10,000 square feet of open space was converted into a machine shop, welding shop, CAD lab, and individual project work bays. Problems encountered during renovation, rules for operation, problems encountered, cost of operation, and staffing of the laboratory are discussed. Discussion is presented of what might have been done differently, and advice for those who would create such a lab is included.

Background and Introduction

The Virginia Tech College of Engineering has sponsored student teams in national design competitions for approximately 20 years. Beginning with the SAE Mini Baja®, progressing to Formula SAE®, Steel Bridge, Future Car, Future Truck, AIAA Team Aircraft Design, Autonomous Vehicle, Solar Decathlon, underwater autonomous vehicles, and most recently DARPA Grand Challenge, teams have been formed, supported, and have done very well in national and international competitions. The philosophy behind sponsorship of these teams has been that to be properly trained for the engineering workplace students must have not only theoretical knowledge but also the experience that goes along with realization of designs, plus the associated testing and inevitable redesign and retesting. Young engineers with only theoretical backgrounds, no matter how strong that theoretical background may be, are not as easily assimilated into the workplace without some “hands on” design realization experiences.

Those with experience sponsoring and/or guiding student realization projects know these projects are very resource intensive. The resources required span a wide range of people, including faculty, technicians and graduate students, space, equipment, and money. All of those items are scarce resources at all universities. At Virginia Tech we have been fortunate to have adequate funding, administrative support, bright students who were interested, and faculty with the desire to both work with students and to participate in the design and realization of these projects. From the early 1980’s until the late 1990’s, however, space was a continuing problem. Teams worked wherever shop space could be found. Often the space was not well-suited for the purpose, but it was available and was therefore used. Machine shop space was even more at a

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Griffin, O. (2004, June), Hands On, 24/7 Virginia Tech's Joseph F. Ware, Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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