The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Exploratorium Spawns Student Brainstorms

Last fall the new Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department's Exploratorium officially went online in the ELab Building as a $150,000, 2500-square-foot home base for MIE students in the ELab building on campus. It features an upgraded Computer Lab, teleconferencing hardware and software, several reconfigurable spaces where varying numbers of students can meet, room for guest speakers to deliver their talks, and a place for all the MIE students to call home. It also serves as the department's spawning ground for student brainstorms.

The Exploratorium was sparked into life thanks to generous contributions from many friends of the MIE department, notably two $25,000 donations from MIE alums Ken Lloyd and Bob Hagerty, and a $10,000 gift from Altra Industrial Motion, whose President and CEO is alumnus Carl Christenson.

The opening of the Exploratorium a little more than a year after its conception in the summer of 2009 was the result of close teamwork throughout the entire department community, including many alumni, MIE Administrative Officer Jennifer Suglia, Undergraduate Program Director James Rinderle, MIE's Industrial Advisory Board, College of Engineering Development Director Paula Sakey, and the campus Physical Plant.

"And all of a sudden, something that was just a pipedream 18 months ago became the real thing!" exclaimed MIE Department Head Don Fisher. "I'm so excited about it because student laboratories and spaces in which students could interact with each other, faculty, and alumni in both formal and informal meetings is one of the main areas in which I had hoped to grow the department and focus its energies."