“We chose TecQuipment because they ticked all the boxes and some more. They were great to work with from start to finish, from initial discussions at ASEE 2016 in New Orleans through to the more recent installation, training and commissioning in August 2018. Even when we encountered problems, the Lab Midwest team and TecQuipment dealt with the situation with smiles and joyfulness,” explained Rachel Friesen, Lab Technician at the University of Northwestern.
The legacy of teaching engineering at the University of Northwestern goes back to the debut of pre-engineering in 1983-1984 and then to the establishment of the Engineering Dual Degree program in conjunction with the University of Minnesota in 2000. Students in the Dual Degree program would typically enroll in mathematics, science, and engineering courses at University of Northwestern for three years and then transfer to the University of Minnesota for the final two years of the curriculum. The decision to offer a complete bachelor’s degree program in engineering at Northwestern beginning in 2016 was made with accreditation as a high priority. They already had a strong teaching team with lots of experience, but another requirement for accreditation was the addition of modern and practical teaching equipment to prepare students for the industry workforce.
Flexible Teaching Requirements and Space Limitations
“Our current lab space was renovated from art studios and kitchens, which means space is a high concern”, explained Friesen. “This was another reason why we opted for TecQuipment products that are compact, while still being big enough for groups of students to work on them together.” In addition to this, they were looking for equipment that would run pre-set experiments, as well as offer flexibility for the teaching team to design their own lab experiments.
The University of Northwestern looked at four main suppliers of equipment, comparing the product specifications, cost and comprehensive equipment provision. “TecQuipment was both cost effective as well as able to provide the majority of the equipment that we needed to teach both our thermal-fluids and materials labs,” commented Friesen.
The Laboratory Set-up
At the University of Northwestern, theory and lab courses do not relate one to one. For example, the materials lab consists of mainly destructive testing equipment that explores concepts from both the material science and mechanics of materials courses.
“Our favourite piece of equipment has been the Universal Testing Machine. Despite also having a higher capacity piece of equipment in the lab, we like this one because it is an easy to manipulate, hands-on machine,” explained Friesen. The compact size means that the instructors have the freedom to move it around and can allow students to operate it. Plus, if it should break, they felt confident about the repair process. Friesen explained further: “It is so very fun to watch the students pumping the hydraulic arm and then see them edge further and further away as they anticipate the break in material. It has also given the engineering department an opportunity to educate the rest of the university and local community about what we do. We’ve had groups from our alumni community, human resources and the local community come along to the department, get hands on and break something with this piece of equipment. It allows us to show them that engineering is not all equations and work on computers.”
Dedicated Thermo-fluids Laboratory
For the thermo-fluids lab, they purchased a Digital Hydraulic Bench and experiments to mount on it including the Flow Measurement Methods apparatus and Flow Calibration apparatus. They also purchased freestanding apparatuses including the Piping Networks apparatus and Two-Stage (Series and Parallel) Pumps. For learning about heat transfer and thermodynamics, they opted for the Heat Transfer Experiment base unit with a range of experiments, Heat Exchanger Service Module base unit and experiments, a Free and Forced Convection Experiment, a Radiation Experiment, and lastly a Refrigeration Cycle Experiment.
A Seamless Experience
“Throughout the process of purchase we have had excellent service from the TecQuipment team and local agent Lab Midwest. It extended from the initial quote, where it was clear to see what was and what wasn’t included, through to the set up and installation - which was incredible. Paul Holslin from Lab Midwest worked with me for a week in ninety-degree heat unpacking crates. Then, TecQuipment specialist Matthew Fellows did a wonderful job of walking us through all the products, answering questions and resolving the small transit damage issues,” summarised Friesen.
Rachel Friesen went on to emphasise the people element. “Another thing I really appreciate about working with TecQuipment is that you are working with people, not just with nameless assistance at a generic email addresses. It’s that personal care and attention that has never left me feeling that I’m waiting unnecessarily.”