Not the Same Drill: HMC Machine Shop Renovations

Nestled in the heart of the Libra Complex, the HMC Machine Shop provides a space for 5C students to learn how to use sophisticated tooling and machines, be creative, and make loud mechanical noises. This past summer a renovation team including Machine Shop Manager Paul Stovall and student Thomas Morgan-Witts ’18 redesigned the shop by creating a new floor plan, adding new machinery, and reorganizing the space. This fall the renovated shop opened for use, and the changes have caused a flurry of excitement within the Mudd community.

According to Morgan-Witts, one of the main reasons the shop was modified was “to improve usability and safety, primarily for E4”. Every semester, the students in E4 (Introduction to Engineering Design/Manufacturing) constantly flood the shop to learn how to the use the lathes, mills, and other machines for the first time. From ocarinas to tool trays to the (in)famous hammer, E4 students arguably must spend the most time in the machine shop out of all students each semester. Therefore, redesigning the shop with the needs of these students in mind was critical. With the addition of three lathes and two mills to the shop, more students can be working at once, reducing the machine wait time for E4 students desperately trying to meet a deadline for their project. In terms of safety, the painted, high-grip walkway through the center of the shop provides a clear path for students and shop proctors to safely move through the busy space. Also adding to the shop’s safety, the elimination of the wall separating the sheet metal shop from the main shop and the addition of a door from the main shop to the wood shop allow proctors to have better visibility of all working shop users. A variety of new equipment, from lathes and mills to a 3D printer space replacing the RDL (Rocket Development Lab) next door, also contributes to the excitement of the renovated machine shop.

Head shop proctors Senghor Joseph ’17 and Men Cheol Jeong ’17 have been working hard with Professor Kash Gokli and Stovall to organize the new shop, replace tools lost during the summer renovations, and familiarize the proctors with the new space. Though the major changes to the shop have been made, many smaller modifications can be done this semester to improve the shop users’ and proctors’ experience in the new space. Shop proctor Andrew Bishop ’18 shared his thoughts on the new machine shop’s operation so far: “I’m really excited for hammer season now that we have all these new machines. But we have some work to do around the shop before then. Some of the machines have been malfunctioning, we’re missing some tooling we need, and it’s not quite as organized as it should be.” With a strong foundation of improvements in safety and usability, the machine shop still has plenty of room to grow, and the management team will continue to work hard this year to make the most of the new equipment and space.

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