Providing students a space to make their “home away from home” has long been a departmental goal. The Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building will include a 3,000-square-foot, open-design student center and dedicated space for our student societies’ projects, meetings, corporate events, and other interactions. These will be places to converse with peers and professors, work alone or in groups, grab lunch or coffee from the new coffee shop in the building, or just hang out between classes. They will be true “collaboration spaces” that spur interaction and strengthen the education and innovation already underway. Within the revitalized facility, our future industry leaders, researchers, and entrepreneurs will build strong connections that continue long after graduation. Smaller huddle spaces, an outdoor patio, and other new gathering areas, as well as writing walls, state-of-the-art technology, and a cozy but inspiring environment will help foster a strong community among our students, faculty, staff, and visitors. The Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building will be MechSE’s highly sought-after “third space.”

My MechSE Home

Chris Nobre

Those who know me know I have always struggled with the answer to “Where are you from?” or “Where is home?” After high school, I left Beijing, China, to come to the University of Illinois in pursuit of a degree in mechanical engineering. I had no idea just how many incredible opportunities I would be given and the number of talented, passionate, and inspiring people I would meet.

One of the most notable things I felt at Illinois, and specifically at MechSE, was a strong sense of community. This was important to me, as I grew up moving every couple of years because of my dad’s job. By the time I graduated high school, I had lived in five different countries across North America, South America, and Asia. I'm used to change and making new friends quickly, but I don't think it ever came as naturally as it did at Illinois. I know people with so many different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Everyone belongs, and everyone brings something new and important to the table.

Going to a top engineering program in the country (and the world!), there's the stereotype that students are cut-throat competitive and that everyone is fighting for the top of the curve. The reality is, I never once felt that way. Whether it's helping each other with tough homework problems, reviewing for upcoming exams together, or working on projects outside of class, collaboration is everywhere. The community of giving and taking results in something incredible: everyone benefits.

I can't even begin to imagine what the transformation of MEB will add—especially the open atrium. Student societies meeting in larger numbers to work on their projects. More opportunities for corporate after-hours and recruiting events. A place to test out and showcase projects to friends and classmates. Heck, even just more space to get together, socialize, and take breaks.

Getting involved and being an active part of the MechSE and College of Engineering communities through student organizations, leadership, and really just being present was truly the best decision I made in college.

Suddenly, looking at it now, the answer to that question, “Where is home?” becomes much more clear. Urbana-Champaign is my home, and I miss it like crazy.

- Chris Nobre (BSME ’15), Project Engineer, Amazon

My student experience really improved a lot when I got involved in student societies as an undergraduate student, and we are now encouraging our students to get involved much earlier. We want them to come in the door and feel a sense of community right away. Our student area in MEL is packed, especially late at night. There’s a lot more group work than there’s been before with hands-on projects in the curriculum, and student society projects have grown by leaps and bounds. With the new building project, we’ll be able to have all of the students in one central area instead of spread out. Being connected in this manner is going to have an incredible impact. Even more than now, the students will find their own niche, their own place, and a real sense of belonging.

Emad Jassim (BSME ’00, MSME ’01, PhD ME ’06)
MechSE Director of Undergraduate Programs and Lecturer