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Motorsports Machine Shop gets fixer upper treatment

For many students, the Motorsports Garage located behind CAR is their second home-dedicating countless hours working with their teammates to prepare their vehicles for competition.

The garage not only houses the teams work spaces but a machine shop for the students to utilize as well. Over the past few months student research associates (SRA’s) have worked with senior instrument maker, Matt Little, to renovate the shop, making it safer and more spacious and allowing for a more productive environment for the students to continue to develop their design and manufacturing skills.

“The improvements made by the students to the machine shop will hopefully trickle down to increasing the teams' performance at competition as well as the resumes of the students,” said Little.

machine shop renovationRearranging the shop provided ample clearance between the machines, allowing Little and the SRA's to easily walk among the working students without disturbing them or creating distractions from their work as they supervise and provide guidance and training.

In addition to adding an additional milling machine, lathe and tabletop workspace, the shop is now brighter and easier to keep clean thanks to an epoxy coating on the floors. The walls were pressure washed to further brighten and improve the effectiveness of the lighting, “which is necessary for detail oriented tasks like machining,” said Little. The SRA’s who helped with the renovation spent quite a bit of time cleaning, painting and removing decades worth of grease, oil and needle-like chips from several of the machines. “This improves the shop moral and encourages post-operation cleanup among the students, allowing the SRA's and myself to focus on training and project guidance, instead of constant broom pushing,” said Little.  

“A clean and organized shop commands respect and respect translates into productivity and more importantly, safety.  Students involved in the shop renovation project have been able to impart that mindset on all the teams, while also learning a thing or two along the way,” said SRA and Supermileage team member, Josh Latimer. “I’ve certainly learned a lot through the opportunity to work on new machines, get them operational, teach other students how to operate them and put them to use making parts for my own team.  With more machines running, and more students running them effectively, everybody involved in Student Projects will be able to accomplish a lot more.”

Since the renovation, four SRA’s have been hired to work with and supervise fellow motorsports students. This additional supervision makes it possible to keep the shop open and available to teams approximately 80 hours a week.

The machine shop staff, consisting of Little and the four SRA’s, have taken on a share of the research support role formerly held by Don Williams, lead design engineer prior to his recent retirement. These responsibilities include advanced manufacturing of test equipment as well as providing design advice. 

“In addition to the in depth training I provide them, the SRA's work on maintenance, fabrication and research projects, rapidly building their skills and enhancing their ability to guide and ensure the safety of other students,” said Little.

Little and his team of SRA’s continue to clear out and organize materials and equipment that has accumulated in the shop over the years, providing more flexible workspace and condensing storage areas to make the best use of space possible. And this is just the beginning for the space. Projects still on the “to do” list include; increasing the ability to bend and notch tubing for building tube frame vehicles, advanced sheet metal forming facilities and welding room improvements.

Written by Colleen Herr, CAR Marketing and Communications Specialist