LSU Chevron Center for Engineering Education Offers Students Latest Technology, Opportunities
On any given day, one can walk by the Chevron Center for Engineering Education in Patrick F. Taylor Hall and see a bevy of students hard at work using computers, 3D scanners and printers. The 2,916-square-foot facility not only houses the Engineering Communication Studio that provides this cutting-edge equipment, it also serves as a hub for LSU College of Engineering students who have an interest in traveling abroad, learning communication techniques, and becoming an LSU Distinguished Communicator.
Before the Chevron Center, there was only the studio, a joint initiative between the college and LSU Communication Across the Curriculum (CxC) that opened in 2005. During a tour of PFT some years later, Chevron visitors noticed the bustling studio and decided they would like to help expand and improve it. Through a generous donation, the studio was renovated and became known as the Chevron Center for Engineering Education. It is now under the direction of Elizabeth Melvin, director of academic affairs for the college, and offers students opportunities to hone their skills through various programs.
“When I was a chemical engineering undergrad, I underestimated the value of communication in my career,” Melvin said. “However, once I worked in industry, I saw how important it is to clearly communicate my ideas, my projects, my calculations and my results to others. The Chevron Center and the CxC program are critical to ensuring that LSU Engineering students remain competitive in the engineering workforce and become polished, effective communicators and leaders. I feel very fortunate to be a part of it and for having the opportunity to work with two of the most dedicated educators in the College of Engineering.”
The Chevron Center also includes the Engineering Supplemental Instruction Program, Encounter Engineering Camp, and Society of Peer Mentors, all run by STEP Manager and SPM Advisor Adrienne Steele.
“Working with Dr. Melvin and (David “Boz” Bowles) has already been very rewarding, and we have all benefitted from sharing our ideas, resources, and expertise,” Steele said. “I have a great deal of respect for both of my Chevron Center colleagues—we have formed a highly supportive and productive team. I believe that our shared vision and dedication will have a positive, lasting impact on students in the College of Engineering.”
“The three of us make a really good team,” said Bowles, who runs the studio and serves as the CxC College of Engineering coordinator. “We have put some of the most student-centered staff in this center. We were always a hive of activity, but now . . .”
One can find the Chevron Center downstairs in the newly renovated and expanded PFT in a prime location for students. The all-glass walls allow passersby to witness students hard at work and entice others to enter and see what all the fuss is about. Students are asked to sign in and may use any of the studio’s learning tools, which include a 3D printer for rapid prototyping of functional ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic 3D models from CAD (computer-aided design) files; a 3D scanner for generating high-definition, 360-degree surface scans of objects; a holographic design station called zSpace; a wide-format, sheet-fed scanner with raster to vector software to convert legacy drawings to editable formats such as AutoCAD; open-access PC workstations equipped with engineering and scientific software; and a variety of AV equipment available for student checkout, such as laptops, mics, and projectors. The center is also one of the only places on campus with flatbed scanners and Pharos print stations.
There is also an informal lounge area with portable white boards for group meetings and individual workspaces. The conference room, solely for students, is equipped with a large, flat-screen TV with laptop hookup and Internet conferencing. Students may also use the space for group meetings, presentation rehearsals, and web conferencing using Google Hangouts and Skype.
“Having this room right here makes it accessible to all of the students,” said Kat Niedbalski, a senior mechanical engineering major from Detroit, who has served as a mentor to students in the Chevron Center for four years and is currently training a group of students to take her place when she graduates in May. “There are a lot of workers here who are really dedicated, so it makes it easy when you have people who want to work with you,” she said.
Besides the studio, students may also inquire about Communication-Intensive (C-I) courses, traveling abroad with the Geaux Global Program, and learning how to become an LSU Distinguished Communicator.
“There’s a lot of overlap,” Bowles said. “If you wanted to get the distinguished communicator (honor), there’s a good chance you’ll be doing the study abroad or working with Society of Peer Mentors. It’s a symbiotic relationship across the board with all of the outreach stuff in here. It is absolutely a group effort.”
Asked what he enjoys about working in the Chevron Center, Bowles, who also teaches, says that there’s a certain boldness of mindset that comes with engineering students.
“You can call it entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “There’s this fearlessness. The thing with engineers is they can find a way to make things happen. It’s imagining something that doesn’t exist and making it yesterday’s news.”
To learn more about the center, click here, call 225-578-2632, or visit in person at 1269 Patrick F. Taylor Hall. Hours are Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; and Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
By Libby Haydel, Communications Specialist