Student shop provides machining opportunities for MAE students

Posted: March 7, 2023

In the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department there are countless different resources and opportunities to help challenge and further engage students during their academic careers. One popular resource for students is the student machine shop in Scott Laboratory.

Led by shop supervisors Chad Bivens, Aaron Orsborn and Kevin Wolf, their guidance helps students learn and enhance their machining skills. The shop is welcome to all students, no prior machining knowledge is required.

“Our goal in the shop is to advance experimental learning in the manufacturing environment for mechanical and aerospace engineering.” Orsborn said.

Many students in MAE visit the machine shop, one being Alexandru Crisan, a fourth-year aerospace engineering student from Upper Arlington, Ohio. He discovered the shop his third year and although he had interests in machining, his only experience came from watching machinist projects on YouTube.

Photo of Alexandru Crisan

In high school, Crisan was heavily involved in his school’s robotics club. Many members from his club ended up attending Ohio State and they would often come back and share their experiences about classes, coursework and opportunities Ohio State offers.

“Ohio State has a great deal of resources with regards to aerospace engineering,” Crisan said. “It was the best option for me as aerospace is one of my passions.”

It was not until his third year when he decided to pay the student shop a visit. He had a friend who wanted to go to the shop to learn and, ultimately, he decided to go with him.

After visiting initially, he began to have a desire to learn and machine on his own. He quickly became more involved began creating his own projects.

His first project was simply machining an accurate cube out of aluminum bronze he casted.

“Everyone starts somewhere” Crisan said.

He continued to work and develop more individual machining skills and describes his first true project as not practical in the end, but it did further help him understand and learn more.

Photo of mini milling machine
Photo of mini-milling machine 

His current and most elaborate project yet is creating an entire mini milling machine. This machine will allow him to have milling abilities at home. All components are made from a plethora of steel alloys that he acquired from eBay.

Working on all these projects is something Crisan enjoys. The shop has several tools and machines constantly accessible to students and is an open environment to all.

He credits his development in the shop to the student shop supervisor, Orsborn. His guidance helped him to develop the necessary skills to operate the different machines and tools, and the support from several student shop assistants who are dedicated to being a helpful hand for different projects.

“Just as you expect a creative studio to be filled with artists who have a passion for all the nuances for their work,” Crisan said, “the same is true of a machine shop, and the student shop does not fail this expectation.”

Another undergraduate student, Andrew Young, a fourth-year studying mechanical engineering from Delaware, Ohio, has had a history with machinery and works as a student assistant in the shop.

Photo of Andrew Young

His experience comes from his knowledge working in his own machine shop that he created in his parent’s garage as a high schooler where he learned basic shop skills and discovered his passion for machinery.

At first, he was unsure of his academic future uncertain if he wanted to pursue higher education, but when considering college, machining was on his mind. Growing up so close to Columbus, Ohio State was an obvious option — being so close to home as well as having one of the best engineering programs in the state.

While attending orientation, Young was feeling nervous about starting school. On a whim, he decided to explore the department and visited the student shop.

He introduced himself to the supervisors and spoke to them about the shop and what kind of resource it would be for him as a student, which eased his anxiety about starting college.

“After talking to them, I realized W299 machine shop is a resource for students to use,” Young said. “I would be able to spend as much time machining as I wanted once I started college.”

After entering his first year and getting to know the supervisors at the shop more, Orsborn realized Young’s machining background in more detail and offered him a job as a student assistant. He has kept this job throughout college and has also worked at the shop a few summers.

Being in the shop since freshman year, he has been a part of several creations. His various projects include a tap wrench, a vise, a robot chassis for fundamentals of engineering honors course and parts for a 3D printer.

He recounts his most complex project being a temperature-controlled pressure vessel which he used to test a microfabrication process above atmospheric pressure.

Working in the student shop has provided him the opportunity to help different student organizations. Young is also a member of Ohio State’s Baja Society of Automotive Engineers racing team and has made parts for the team as well.

Photo of clutch
Photo of custom dog clutch

His favorite project he created was a custom dog clutch, which enables the Baja’s cars four-wheel drive to be turned on and off. This project took him a week in the student shop complete.

Additionally, he has helped improve the MAE department as well. He created a special aluminum part for the computer trays in Scott Lab, which helped stop the stealing of printer paper.

Creating projects for himself and other organizations is not his only responsibility. Being a student assistant means there are plenty of times he is helping students fine tune their machining skills and offering guidance on their projects.

“A lot of the machining projects I am most proud of are things that other people have made, who I helped teach,” Young said. “It makes me happy when someone’s project is a success.”

The mentorship in the student shop is very apparent and one of the most valuable assets of the student shop. He describes Orsborn, Bivens and Wolf as true mentors who have a wide range of knowledge to share including machining skills, mechanical design advice and industry knowledge.

The shop supervisors help challenge students and assign them tasks that will help develop or test specific skills. Growth and development are two of the most important aspects of the student shop in addition to an encouraging and productive environment.

“We provide consultation for students for design and design for manufacture ability,” Orsborn said. “When it comes time to manufacture we’re here to assist and make sure they complete projects properly and safely.”