Event Honors ME Machine Shop Renovation Donors

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Donors joined UC Santa Barbara faculty and staff Thursday afternoon to tour the renovated College of Engineering (COE) Machine Shop, officially called the Center of Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID), and to take part in a ceremonial unveiling of a plaque dedicated to the donors who made the project possible.

Long the first stop for many COE faculty and students needing something built for a lab or an experiment, the shop is especially important to undergraduate students in the Mechanical Engineering (ME) Department. About twenty teams of such students each year use the shop to design, build and test their senior capstone projects, probably the single most important accomplishment in their undergraduate careers.

“In engineering, we do a lot with numbers, and we do a lot with physics and mathematics,” said Tyler Susko, undergraduate dean in the ME department and the capstone instructor. “It’s turning those numbers into physical things that makes us mechanical engineers, whether students design rockets or cars or whatever they may do in their careers. When I ask our graduates who are in the job market what they talked about in a job interview, about ninety-nine percent of the time, they say, ‘the capstone project and the thing I built at UCSB.’ Having this facility will change dramatically how we can teach our students and make that experience even more important.”

On hand for the dedication were donors Virgil Elings, Alistair Wynn, and Jim Frank. Eilings spent twenty years on the UCSB Physics faculty and co-founded Digital Instruments, a pioneer in developing and manufacturing the scanning probe electron microscope. Asked about his interest in donating to the CEID renovation project, Elings thought all the way back to his time as a student taking a machine shop course at a technical high school in Des Moines, Iowa. “I’ve always liked machinery,” he said, “and, to learn, our students need to have the best equipment.”

“I got involved because I hired a lot of engineers and chemists to work in my company and it was important that they have good skills," said Winn, who founded seven successful companies in the biomedical field, including Applied Silicone Corporation, where he was president and CEO for 27 years. “I was invited to be part of the [Mechanical Engineering Department's] IAB [Industrial Advisory Board] ten years ago, and we realized that our then-outdated machine shop was an impediment to our engineering students gaining the skills they needed to be the best. With this project, I think we’ve fixed that.”

Standing beside Winn was his friend Jim Frank, a long-time donor for whose father Harold Frank Hall is named. He pointed at Winn and said, “I got involved because Alistair was doing it. If he’s doing it, it’s worth doing.”

Looking around at all the state-of-the-art equipment, COE dean, Umesh Mishra, said “Mechanical engineering is the broadest field in engineering, and it has always been that way. The most important thing about the machine shop, I believe, is the potential it brings. You can’t know what’s in a person’s mind unless they actually express it. A machine shop is a place for expression, and it can bring out the genius in a person, so, I’m very excited about this.”

Images of (left) Dean Umesh Mishra (left) and donors (from left) Duncan Eilings and Alistair Winn

Dean Umesh Mishra (left in left photo) and donors (from left in right photo) Duncan Eilings and Alistair Winn just after the unveling of the donor appreciation plaque.