Olympic College opens new engineering lab

Olympic College unveiled a brand new engineering lab on its Bremerton campus Saturday.

Olympic College unveiled a brand new engineering lab on its Bremerton campus Saturday.

The lab, which sits on the east side of Warren Avenue just a block south of the bridge, will play an integral role in the college’s engineering program.

How beneficial can one engineering lab be? For some students at Olympic College it can mean the difference between graduating and being forced to give up a dream.

In 2010, Olympic College partnered with Washington State University to bring a bachelor’s degree program to Bremerton.

Since then, two classes of students have graduated from the program with four-year degrees in engineering.

To get their degrees, however, all of those students had to take a hands-on class known as a lab. The only place to do that was at WSU’s main campus — six hours away in Pullman.

In addition to taking classes in the OC-WSU engineering program, many of the students also had full-time jobs or families to take care of — or both.

Marvin Pitts, a WSU professor of mechanical engineering at Olympic College told the audience at Saturday’s open house about one particular student who was a single parent raising an autistic child and simultaneously taking care of his elderly mother.

He brought up another recent graduate who worked full-time at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, who worked overtime all year to build up comp hours and vacation — all of which he used to spend the summer taking the engineering lab in Pullman.

These past students were able to leap the hurdle and graduate, but according to professors, that trip for that length of time is simply impossible for some.

“Our current students won’t have to make those sacrifices,” Pitts said.

Several juniors in the engineering program — James Clark, Chris Allbee and Melissa Helwig — were present at the open house. They said without the Bremerton lab their senior year would have been severely complicated.

On top of that, the three juniors said the rest of their classes would be improved as a result of the lab’s opening.

Previously, almost all of their work was done in a classroom setting, without the benefit of hands-on work.

The extent of the program’s hands-on capability rested in “a couple machines crammed in a back room” according to Helwig. She said a class of thirty essentially had to file through and take turns using the machines.

With the new engineering lab the students not only won’t have to travel to Pullman, they’ll also have brand new equipment to use for the rest of their projects as well, Helwig said.

Pitts expressed a similar sentiment in his own words.

“For engineers, we tend to be people who like to get our hands on — that’s the way we learn,” he said.

Now that the college’s engineering lab is open, students and professors will be able to do just that.