uc davis engineering student design center women open house

Engineering Student Design Center (ESDC) student staff demonstrate a laser cutter to attendees.

February 25, 2019

By Noah Pflueger-Peters

The Engineering Student Design Center (ESDC) hosted a well-attended Women in Engineering open house on Thursday, January 31. Student staff gave visitors a tour of the facility, showing off the lab’s nine 3D printers and demonstrating the laser cutter, which printed commemorative keychains before their eyes. The event also served an opportunity for female faculty, staff and graduate students from the UC Davis community to mingle and learn more about the facility.

“One of the reasons we’re ranked number one for women in STEM is the support we have of the faculty and our staff in the ESDC, and the passion our students have both their coursework and the application of their coursework in design projects like what are done here in the ESDC,” said Dean Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, during her opening remarks.

The ESDC is a great place for mechanical engineers to get hands-on experience with design and manufacturing, essential skills for any engineering career.

“I like the hands-on things and manufacturing is my specialty,” said Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Associate Professor Barbara Linke, who teaches EME 50, the prerequisite course for mechanical and materials engineers to use the center’s equipment. “I love the ESDC.”

The center encompasses 10,000 square feet in Bainer Hall that’s used for education, research and student design projects by engineers from every discipline. The open house comes on the heels of a $5.3 million gift from John (’69) and Melinda Baum to help renovate and expand the design center to 21,000 square feet in the next few years.

The event was spearheaded by Sherry Batin, one of the center’s full-time staff members who is no stranger to being a woman in STEM. She fell in love with engineering after joining her all-girls high school robotics team and when she went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to receive her B.S. in mechanical engineering, she was consistently one of only two or three women in a classroom or a lab.

After earning her master’s at UC San Diego, she returned to her native Sacramento to promote engineering education, first through mentoring her alma mater’s robotics team and later by helping the UC Davis Engineering community realize its ideas through the ESDC.

“What I like is watching the new ideas,” said Batin. “It’s always interesting and amusing because students will come up with things that make you think, ‘huh, that’s pretty ingenuous.’”

The center has four full-time staff and 12 student employees, who are there to answer questions, give trainings on specific pieces of equipment and support the daily functions of the lab. Though engineering has historically been a male-dominated discipline, the ESDC works to counter that by making sure its staff has a 50/50 gender ratio. This fosters an environment of equality and collaboration.

“Everyone is super supportive in here,” said senior mechanical engineering major and ESDC student staff member Deniz Akin. “Whatever question you have, no matter how stupid you think it is, someone will have a really good answer and you’ll learn a lot”

Related: ESDC Women in Engineering Open House 2019 Photos.