November 12, 2008

Purdue to show off first-year engineering learning lab

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's School of Engineering Education is inviting the public to visit its new Ideas to Innovation Learning Laboratory on Nov. 24.

The state-of-the-art lab, known as I2I, is aimed at allowing first-year engineering students to do hands-on design work from the very beginning of their time on campus. The lab opened this fall.

An open house in the lab, located in the lower level of Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, will be 4-6 p.m.

The I2I Learning Laboratory comprises seven studios where students can work on different functions along the way to making a design become a solution. They are the Design Studio, Demonstration Studio, Prototyping Studio, Electronics Studio, Fabrication and Artisan Laboratories, and Innovation Studio.

Tours of each studio will be given during the open house. All are in use now by students except for the Fabrication and Artisan Laboratories, which will open in the spring.

Currently, 1,700 students in the School of Engineering Education's First-Year Engineering Program are working in the technology-enriched I2I Lab, a pioneering learning space for large-scale engineering programs.

The lab encourages teamwork as students identify design criteria for a problem, come up with potential alternative solutions, plan for the chosen solution, build and test a prototype, evaluate their work, and refine their solution.

The Design Studio alone has six video projectors to prevent awkward viewing angles, rolling carts that deliver tablet PCs to team workspaces and floor-to-ceiling whiteboard walls on which students and faculty can sketch, brainstorm and share information. A drop-down partition can be used to divide the 120-student studio into two 60-student spaces.

Among technology in use or planned for the other studios are 3-D rapid-prototyping printers and a Microsoft Surface table, a computer in the form of a tabletop that requires no keyboard or mouse.

The I2I Lab has a companion classroom that has rising levels, each with two rows of tables and chairs. The chairs can be turned to help the students work on team projects.

During the summer, the I2I Lab will be used by kindergarten through 12th-grade students, teachers, administrators and counselors taking part in engineering programs.

A portion of the $4.3 million needed to build the I2I Lab came from Stephen D. Bechtel Jr., chairman emeritus of the Bechtel Group Inc. of San Francisco. He has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and an honorary doctorate in engineering from Purdue.

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, (765) 494-2432,

Source: Teri Reed-Rhoads, College of Engineering assistant dean for undergraduate education, (765) 494-4966,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: Journalists wishing to visit the lab during a class day can contact Judith Austin, Purdue News Service, at (765) 494-2432,

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