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When Engineers Go Shopping

By Susan Clarey

Visitors to the ground floor of Hicks Hall can’t fail to be fascinated by the huge engineering test instruments that lurk in dimly lit chain-link cages there. In the digital age, a solid steel compression stand evokes another era. And although the decades-old equipment is still in regular use, the College is seeking $300,000 during the next 18 months to purchase state-of-the-art equipment for the Department of Engineering’s instructional labs. The shopping list includes 22 separate pieces to be used across five different laboratories:

• Mechanical and Structural Testing Laboratory, including an impact testing machine and a universal testing machine used for tensile and compression measurements

• Soils and Construction Laboratory, including a triaxial testing machine used for testing soil samples

• Thermal Energy Laboratory, a fuel-cell-testing system for exploring current principles in fuel technology, including leading-edge alternative fuels

• Electronics Laboratory, a semiconductor-device analyzer for exploring and characterizing electronic components used in the circuits students design

• Materials Laboratory, including a high precision, manually- or computer-controlled oven and a humidity-controlled chamber. Many types of specimens, including biomaterials, can be tested; this equipment will support growing interdisciplinary efforts between engineers and other scientists.

“New equipment will dramatically enhance the classroom, laboratory, and research experience for Swarthmore engineers and non-engineering majors alike,” says Professor of Engineering and Chair Lynne Molter ’79. “It will allow us to continue to provide new challenges for our students—challenges they seek and truly enjoy. They will also develop a better understanding of the methodology engineers employ to solve multifaceted problems, providing them with outstanding preparation for careers and advanced research after graduation. We want to introduce equipment that helps our students explore exciting, cutting-edge developments and directions in engineering.”

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