Mines is expanding and growing, and that’s good. We get an incredible education here, and to give that opportunity to more people is a fantastic thing. The problem with this, though, is that there’s limited space for all of these students. We’ve already seen this manifesting in the endless complaints about parking space, and once the new dorm and parking garage are built, the space issue will transfer into campus buildings. Many departments, clubs, and other student groups are already trying to make sure their space is secure.
Recently, there was a rumored proposal to convert some club spaces in Brown building to senior design workspaces, which sounds like a reasonable enough idea on the surface. The senior design program is a very valuable program to give seniors experience in real-life design problems, and to give needed project management skills. This proposal, however, would have taken space away from practical clubs like Formula SAE (FSAE) and Robotics and turned it into additional senior design space. These teams need a lot of space to do what they do, as building race cars and robots can’t be done in a computer lab alone. While an argument can be made that senior design is a more valuable use of the space because it’s done by more students overall, taking space from practical clubs is the last thing the school should do to solve the space problem. This proposal did not lead to any action, and the clubs can keep their space for now, but the future is still up in the air.
Practical clubs offer students the same experience in design and project management as senior design does, and these clubs are open to everyone on campus, not just seniors. Especially for students looking to go into specific industries like the automotive industry or automation (among many others), experience gained in these clubs is invaluable. Most classes on the Mines campus do a fantastic job preparing us for the working world, but often do not go into practical skills like project management and actually building the things students design. By being a member of one of these practical clubs, students can develop these skills throughout their college career, not just in their senior year on a senior design project. By the first semester of senior year, most students are already looking for and applying to full-time jobs. With senior design just getting started at this time, many students have little to no experience in these practical skills, and may feel overwhelmed going into interviews without it. Practical clubs offer the opportunity to put these skills on a resume early, helping students get internships and work experience early. There’s no doubt that senior design is a valuable and necessary experience for students, but taking space away from practical clubs to give to senior design is a step in the wrong direction.