Covers costs of supplies in EPIC, BTEC

By Michael Seele

Since the College opened cutting-edge makerspaces eight years ago, student use of them has been strong and getting stronger. While use of these facilities has always been without cost to students, often the materials and supplies needed for design projects have not been. Now, thanks to the generosity of the College’s industry partners and alumni, that burden has been lightened.

A $1 million endowed fund has been established that will generate the income needed to cover the cost of these supplies.

When the Engineering Product Innovation Center (EPIC) opened in 2014, student demand for access was immediately strong and has grown in the years since. A similar phenomenon occurred following the opening of the Bioengineering Teaching and Entrepreneurship Center (BTEC) and is expected to remain strong when the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Teaching and Innovation Center (RASTIC), now under construction, opens.

Not only was demand strong among students for curricular and extra-curricular projects, but faculty soon began taking advantage of these facilities for new and revamped courses, increasing their use. The facilities also support a number of Senior Capstone projects.

“The phenomenon of, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ was emerging at an extraordinary rate,” said Dean Kenneth Lutchen. “This was exactly what we wanted, but hadn’t thought all this initiative and innovation would bring the need for supplies associated with projects. A year ago, we realized our increase in expenditures was approximately $40,000 a year.”

Although not budgeted for it, departments pitched in, as did some student clubs, but the students working on projects bore the cost as well. Seeking to relieve this burden, the College began raising funds for a $1 million endowed Student Design Fund that would generate annual income to obtain supplies.

“First, we turned to our industry partners,” Lutchen said. “PTC and Amazon Robotics came through with a total of $275,000 to anchor the fund. Then, generous and engaged alumni interested in enhancing the student experience stepped up. This semester, we completed the quest and reached the $1 million goal.”

One of those alumni donors is Daniel Maneval (BME ’82), who made the lead gift to the fund with his wife Edna Chow Maneval, who also holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering. Support for undergraduates’ exposure to experiential learning was one reason for their support of the Senior Design Fund. They hope the fund will help students gain the practical experience that will distinguish BU engineers as they enter the workforce.

“It’s great to see continued enthusiasm among students in BTEC and EPIC,” said Daniel Maneval, who is a consultant in the early research and development of biopharmaceuticals, and a member of the College’s West Coast Alumni Leadership Council. “Hands-on experience differentiates engineers from theorists. The Senior Design Fund provides flexibility for the College and provides students with technological expertise and hands-on experience for what’s next. It will help them define what they want to do.”

Other major donors to the Senior Design Fund include Nirav Arvind Dagli (ENG ’92, ’96), Mikhail Gurevich (ENG ’07, QST ’12), Kimberly E. Samaha (ENG ’89) and Richard D. Reidy (QST ’82).