University of Maine Mechanical Engineering seniors have a place where they can design and construct real projects thanks to an alumnus who says this hands-on experience enables students to hone their creative skills and to better understand the manufacturing process.
“If you design something that can’t be readily made, it’s useless,” says Thomas Hosmer, 71, of Concord, Mass., who earned a Mechanical Engineering degree in 1958. It was his idea in 2004 to establish a design engineering center in Crosby Hall and he has been supporting the facility ever since through an endowed fund that enables the department to upgrade and maintain the equipment and purchase supplies to enhance students’ experience.
In recognition of Hosmer’s generous contributions, the Thomas P. Hosmer ’58 Design Engineering Center was dedicated last April.
Since opening in 2006, the Center has been a constant beehive of activity, providing students with a well equipped, up-to-date space where they work in teams to make sure that a particular machine functions the way it’s supposed to. Students may be required to improve the device or even develop a brand new contraption, all the while testing, critiquing and evaluating its performance.
“Engineers solve problems for a living, so it’s absolutely vital that students have this experience,” says Dana Humphrey, dean of the UMaine College of Engineering.
At one time, students had to work on their senior projects wherever they could find room, he recalled.
“Now here’s this wonderful space where they can go to work both on the design and the fabrication of a project and to enhance their team building skills.”
Professor Donald Grant, chairman of the Mechanical Engineering department, says students enjoy doing analytical analyses with state-of-the art computers.
“This facility allows them to excel.”
A consulting engineer for Arthur D. Little in Cambridge, Mass., from 1965 to 2000, Hosmer has maintained ties with UMaine over the years, serving on the Mechanical Engineering Department’s advisory committee and speaking regularly to students about projects he has designed and about his illustrious career. UMaine gave him a great foundation and prepared him well for the future, he tells them.
“I worked for an internationally famous firm, full of graduates from prestigious schools and I never had any trouble keeping up with them,” he points out.
Hosmer says he was spurred to establish the center at UMaine after seeing one at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“UMaine needs one of these,” Hosmer recalled thinking.
After learning that the College of Engineering had, in fact, set aside space for just such a facility, he decided the time had come to furnish it so UMaine Mechanical Engineering seniors could have the opportunity to apply the principles they learned in their first three years and gain a working knowledge of manufacturing processes and equipment.
“Maine engineers have always had a reputation for a practical, competent approach,” he says. “We’ve never hesitated to reach out and get our hands dirty. We’ve never been timid about walking into a machine shop or fabrication shop and talking to the machinist and welder.
“This is the kind of experience it takes so that can continue.”
Image Description: Tom Hosmer examines equipment in the Thomas P. Hosmer '58 Design Engineer Center