Civil senior design lab renovation campaign lifts off with $15K in gifts

Civil Senior Design Lab

Renovations play a large part in any successful engineering business – the need to grow is a direct output of success. The same is true for engineering education. The student experience is constantly evolving, and in order for students to be better trained for the workforce, they need to be equipped with the tools to succeed. 

At the same time, the civil and environmental engineering senior design capstone course impacts every undergraduate student. It allows them to improve their critical thinking and conceptualization skills while being exposed to real-world projects. To this end, students need a place to go to express their knowledge and to create the bridge between the theoretical side of engineering learning and real-world application. 

Capstone courses allows students to hit the ground running once employed, thus reducing the onboarding time of the employer.

To address these needs, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is planning a major overhaul of their senior design lab. By eliminating an archive storage room, no longer necessary in an era of digital files, the department plans to relocate their conference room and combine the two spaces into a larger, more modern senior design lab. 

Lisa Spainhour, chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering states, “Senior design is a crucial element in the engineering education and helps to create a seamless transition from student to employee. Providing a larger lab space with more workstations and up-to-date software will allow our students to better prepare for today’s engineering workplaces.”

All of the department’s faculty concur. A well-equipped lab that is both modern and functional will also help the department to attract talented, intelligent and creative engineering students. The college has recently invested $115,000 in the capstone design experience. The department has upgraded or replaced 10 workstations, and is beginning the process of hiring a professor of practice to lead the senior design course.

Nearly $15,000 in renovation funds have been raised already. Just under $5,000 was raised toward the design lab project during FSU’s Great Give, spring of 2018. Twenty-six donors participated, including alumni, faculty and parents. 

Download a PDF explaining the project

The next phase of the campaign is focusing on an additional $140,000 needed to purchase furniture and additional technology for the larger facility, and to cover the physical renovation costs. Proposed funding by the department advisory board is $50,000. The difference of $90,000 will be supplemented by the college, alumni and friends. 

The first dedicated space for the civil and environmental engineering senior design lab was created in 2005. At the time, it fulfilled the basic needs of the student population – but year after year, student exit surveys revealed that upgrades were needed. Now, nearly 13 years later and after several upgrades, the space is no longer sufficient. 

“We need a larger space to accommodate our students, as well as space for integrating new technologies and software,” said Michelle Rambo-Roddenberry, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs for the college and associate professor in the department. “Both the department and the college have made the decision to invest in our students by dedicating a new space for the senior design lab. But it needs a major renovation!”

With more than 70 seniors this past academic year, and with projected growth on the horizon, the new space design accommodates multiple workstations, integrated technology, a small meeting space to facilitate presentation skills and modular furniture to foster collaboration.

The college’s civil and environmental engineering students have won the Florida Engineering Society’s State Chapter of the Year eight out of the past nine years, and the department’s American Society of Civil Engineers was recently named a finalist for the Ridgway award, given annually to the most outstanding chapter in the nation. As well, the department’s faculty continue to excel as leaders in engineering research and education and serve in leadership roles within NCEES, the Florida Board of Professional Engineers, and various industry boards. The department is poised for even greater success and recognition.

“We need 100 percent participation from all our partners in this project before the end of the summer,” said Spainhour. “Investing in our students and the lab is as much for the department’s growth as it is for the betterment of our graduates’ academic preparation.”

Won’t you join this partnership? Gifts to support the senior design lab can be made at our giving link. Be sure to select Civil & Environmental Engineering from the drop-down menu.

For those donors who contribute $500 or more your name will appear on a plaque to be displayed in the new lab.