Improving Our Workspaces

In a recent article published by Business Insider, Olin College was ranked 6th for “Best College Campus in the United States.” Notably, the article mentions how easy it is to get around and how great the residence halls are. However, in classic Olin spirit, there is always room for iteration and improvement. Professor Aaron Hoover is hosting a co-curricular (in which I’m participating) this semester called “Designing Workspaces for Creative Collaboration.” In this co-curricular, students identify under-utilized spaces or areas that can be improved and propose a plan to use them more effectively. The purpose of this article is to inform the student body about this co-curricular’s vision, activities, and how we hope to improve various spaces around Olin including the hallway outside the machine shop, the POE room, and the Mechanical Stockroom.

Outside the Machine Shop
The area outside the machine shop and underneath the stairs has been in consistent disarray all semester due to the lack of work space, storage, and general organization. A group of students has been leading an effort to design and build workbenches that will be placed in the hallway to allow students to work on projects in an organized and ergonomic fashion. These tables will be entirely mobile, allowing the space to be changed when the occasion arises (such as during the design challenge for Candidates Weekend). The tables will have a folding surface and in the future will likely be outfitted with dedicated tools and task lighting. Students will be able to work in this space, and leave their projects on the table for short term use. The system for managing the workbenches is still being prototyped, but the final version will be communicated with simple signs. Planned modular, mobile storage will also help avoid clutter in the hallway area. These installations will allow the entire student body to more effectively use the space outside the shop and will ensure a safer and cleaner work area.

Principles of Engineering Classroom
Imagine a room where professor and alumnus Gui Cavalcanti’s personal army of “Stompy” hexapod robots has trudged through destroying everything in its path. Tools, lasercut plywood, and other project materials are strewn across the floor covering every square inch of space available. This is the POE room by the end of every year. A few students have started investigating ways to avoid this clutter by implementing proper storage inside and outside the classroom (where students inevitably end up migrating their projects). They have also worked on modifying the tables in the room. Each team’s workspace consists of four smaller benches pushed together in a square, but the built-in power strips at the back of every table do not allow students to easily place large projects on the tables. The current situation will be remedied with modified tables and more integrated work surfaces. During Build Day this year, students will also be driving an effort to clean up and disassemble all the left over projects from previous POE classes. The freshly created free space will be used to store next years projects.

Mechanical Stockroom
The Mechanical Stockroom (AC129) was originally designed to provide a supply of hardware and other mechanical components at any time to any student, given that the hardware would be returned to the space once they were done with it. Efforts have previously been made to keep the room well stocked, but those efforts were not sustained. The room is currently disorganized, and many useless items are taking up space. The hardware that was originally well-stocked is now currently nonexistent. Students find consumable hardware (nuts, bolts, washers, etc.) most useful to them, but those have disappeared due to lack of consistent maintenance. The disorganization of the space also prevents students from finding the things they need. To solve the issues above, we hope to develop a sustainable system that can keep the ME Stockroom organized consistently for a longer period of time. The system will hopefully eliminate any gaps caused by students graduating. Our goal is to turn the stockroom into a room that has a much greater variety of components that can benefit many more students. Currently, the most useful aspect of the stockroom is making hardware available. We hope to expand the inventory, in addition to providing documentation for each part. One possible improvement we are considering would be the ability to purchase stock from this inventory.

If you are interested in getting involved with renovating any of these spaces, or have any feedback regarding the spaces listed above, please contact Professor Aaron Hoover by email to

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