Recently one of the USA’s largest engineering schools, Texas A&M University, invested in a new engineering education complex that would revolutionise the way they teach their 20,000 engineering students. One element of this new complex was a new model for laboratories that would allow them to fully utilise equipment and space by creating “common labs”, shared facilities within Zachry Engineering Education Complex completed in 2018. The new building was only part of the story; they invested heavily in new teaching equipment to be housed in this facility, including a vast range of practical engineering teaching products from TecQuipment.
Before the new facility, the engineering school’s utilisation of laboratory space and equipment was not as efficiently designed. Different departments would have their own laboratory space, that for some courses was underutilised, while in contrast other departments were operating at maximum capacity with no flexibility. The solution was a shared laboratory facility with standardised modular equipment that could be utilised by the mechanical, civil, chemical and petroleum engineering departments.
Once the State of Texas had approved the new building in 2016, the next step was to establish what equipment would be required for each department and the laboratory arrangement that would work to be most effective. Equipment committees that included Technicians and faculty members were established. Lists of teaching objectives and a wish list of equipment compiled. During this period, the team pulled in quotes from across the engineering education industry and despite only having had a few years of experience using TecQuipment products, made the shift to standardise across the board with TecQuipment’s teaching equipment.
Trust and Local Support
“One of the reasons we chose TecQuipment as our equipment provider was that we had trust in what they delivered. Colleagues who had used TecQuipment products vouched for the quality and suitability of the products, and the support and conduct of both TecQuipment and their local representative in the region, TecSolutions,” explained Director of Undergraduate Laboratory Instruction Dr David Staack from the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University.
The Laboratory Equipment Set-Up
Texas A&M’s engineering graduates are among the most highly recruited in the USA, typically receiving two or more job offers with higher-than-average salaries at graduation. This is testament to their teaching and ability to prepare students for the world of work: one key element of this is incorporating practical teaching in the laboratories.
The Zachry Engineering Education Complex has a series of common labs that house TecQuipment’s teaching equipment, plus a design center.
- Phillips 66 Fluids Laboratory
- 5m Sediment Transport Channel with Cylindrical Gate, Radial Sector Gate, Crump Weir, Dam Spillway, Steamlined Hump, Parshall Flume, Bridge Piers, Roughened Bed, Siphon Spillway, Culvert Model, Flow Splitter, plus Wave Generator and Beach.
- Shell Transport Phenomena Laboratory
- Valera High Bay Laboratory
- SuSu & Mark A. Fischer ‘72 Engineering Design Center
One important delivery element for placing the order with TecQuipment was the ability to deliver instructional videos on how to use the equipment, as well as the written manuals. The team at TecQuipment provided these, bespoke filmed onsite using Texas A&M’s very own pieces of equipment.
As everything is designed and manufactured all under one roof, TecQuipment is in some cases able to make modifications to equipment to suit specific requirements from the customer. In the case of Texas A&M, TecQuipment was able to modify a product to feature a closed water supply so that it would not be dependent on building services.
Installation and Ongoing Technical Support
A specialist installation engineer from TecQuipment joined the local TecQuipment partner Tech Labs to assist with the installation, set-up and training for all the equipment.
Shei Sia Su, Technical Lab Coordinator at the Zachry Building commented on their technical support experience: “Warner Brown and the Tech Labs team delivered excellent service. They made sure installation went smoothly and all equipment was ready for students to start experimenting within a timely manner. Our academics and support staff were well trained by Dave Giddings from TecQuipment.”
In reference to the manuals, Shei Sia Su explained further: “The examples of experiments are particularly useful for instructors to design new experiments.”
“With multiple courses using the shared facilities, we have not suffered any major equipment downtime and this is impossible without the excellent technical support from Tech Labs team,” added Shei Sia Su.
More About Texas A&M University
Texas A&M in the United Sates is home to more than 69,000 students and has a heritage that dates back to 1876. The College of Engineering itself is one of the largest engineering schools in the USA, ranking first in undergraduate enrolment in the 2019 survey by the American Society of Engineering Education. When it comes to mechanical engineering, they boast the biggest programme on the continent.