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Rutgers School of Engineering to create new project studio for students, competition teams

Once completed, the Bruce and Phyllis Nicholas Engineering Student Projects Studio on Busch campus will be a space where engineering students, including those who are involved with competition teams, can collaborate and partake in hands-on opportunities that will help them develop key skills. – Photo by Rutgers.edu

In May 2022, the Rutgers School of Engineering is set to complete the Bruce and Phyllis Nicholas Engineering Student Projects Studio on Busch campus, according to the school’s website. This space will be part of a series of many infrastructure renovations within the School of Engineering.

The studio, which will be a specialized facility for students to brainstorm and build large-scale engineering projects, is named after Bruce Nicholas, a 1949 graduate of the School of Engineering, and his wife Phyllis Nicholas, for their contributions to the project, according to the website.

Students from various engineering fields will have access to the studio for hands-on learning opportunities, collaborations, development of project and equipment management skills and competition preparation, according to the website.

Diane Reed, director of communication and marketing for the School of Engineering, said the space will specifically benefit competition teams, such as the Rutgers Formula Racing Team and the Rutgers Solar Car Team, who compete nationally against other schools and bring recognition to the University.

“The student-run project teams contribute value to the school, teaching technical skills, providing hands-on experience and helping identify professional opportunities,” she said.

The new studio will replace the current engineering student workshop, which students have had access to for many years, she said.

“The building was deteriorating and didn’t provide adequate square footage for building space, machine shop equipment and team meeting space,” Reed said. “(The School of Engineering’s) dean (Thomas N. Farris) recognized the need for a fully functioning facility for students’ large-scale projects and the impact this could have on the school’s reputation and student success.”

Farris said the studio demonstrates the University’s commitment to providing a high-quality engineering education to its students.

“Learning happens inside and outside the classroom in research labs, during interactions with faculty and other students and through student-led team projects,” he said.

Andrea Olarte, a School of Engineering senior and president of the Rutgers Solar Car Team, said that the University collaborated with student competition teams like hers to identify their needs and ensure they were addressed in the facility’s design. 

She said the Rutgers Solar Car Team aims to use the studio for collaborative meetings and constructing solar-powered vehicles for competitions such as the American Solar Challenge. 

Several universities who compete with Rutgers in these engineering competitions, such as the University of California, Berkeley, already have their own dedicated project facilities, potentially giving them an edge during competition. 

“The space will allow members to engage in multidisciplinary student design challenges and showcase student achievements to the public, putting Rutgers on the map with premiere institutions and stimulating interest for prospective students to attend Rutgers,” she said.

Farris said the school is grateful to the donors, including Bruce and Phyllis Nicholas, for financially supporting the project as well as recognizing its importance for engineering students.

“The Bruce and Phyllis Nicholas Engineering Student Projects Studio is an incredible initiative by the Rutgers School of Engineering, proving that it is committed to student success and learning beyond the classroom,” Olarte said.

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