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item in the center of innovation

For Trinity University in San Antonio engineering design is a core competence taught in the new Center for the Sciences and Innovation (CSI). Students not only learn about the concepts of the engineering design process but also realize their own projects at versatile, mobile and cost-effective design stations made with item components.

The ten design stations in the 3,963 square foot Innovation Center serve as the hub of the design process. These stations are the collaborative creation of Trinity University faculty and staff working with Design and Assembly Concepts, the distributor for item America. Each station is best suited for a team of five students, but a few extra seats can be added when needed. Students can brainstorm as a group, conduct online research, complete computer-aided design schematics and analysis, fabricate components, assemble projects, test their prototypes, and modify designs at each design station. Locks on the design station drawers allow engineering students to secure tools. Two additional teaching walls separate the lecture and presentation area from the group work area in the center. The teaching walls are constructed in much the same way as the design stations with a few exceptions to enhance their usage as a presentation tool for larger audiences. The overall dimensions of the teaching wall are 74” wide by 33” deep by 100” high.

Versatile, robust and mobile
The base of the design station is a commercially available heavy-duty steel cabinet, typically used to store tools, fit through a standard 83” high and 36” wide door opening. A custom aluminum framework mounted atop the base cabinet supports the rest of the functions of the design station. The overall dimensions are 74” wide by 29” deep by 82” high. Each design station and teaching wall can be rolled to other areas in the building across level ground by only one person and still fit through a standard 83” high and 36” wide door opening

Clever use of space with item
A durable porcelain-coated whiteboard forms the upper backside of the design station, while a vertical wall in the center of the design station serves multiple purposes. The space between the vertical wall and the whiteboard on the backside of the design module functions as storage space for students’ backpacks on one side and a storage space for removable whiteboard panels on the other side. The vertical wall includes two vertical supports for a flat screen display mount, which can be easily adjusted up and down.

Excellent connectivity
The bottom front member of the custom framework houses ten 20-amp electrical outlets, five data ports, and one HDMI input connection for the flat screen display. The 20-amp electrical outlets can be used to power tools, laptop computers, or other equipment. The custom chase atop the base cabinet protects and hides all the data and power cables. Students can either attach their laptop to the data port on the design station or transmit data wirelessly via the University network.

Economically constructed
Both the design station and the teaching wall integrate off-the-shelf components with a custom framework, which greatly reduces material costs. The design station, worktable, and teaching wall are registered under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY), This license gives others the right to share, use, and even build upon work created. Design and cost details can be found on the Trinity University digital commons,

item Industrietechnik GmbH from Solingen, Germany, develops and supplies modular building kit systems that enable customized solutions for all aspects of industrial, mechanical, and factory equipment engineering.  The Building Kit System from item is based on aluminum profiles, carefully coordinated fasteners, and versatile functional elements.  item has achieved its goal of expanding its distribution system in America with its headquarters, item America, LLC.  item America  has several distribution partners in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Latin America.


Figure 1. Engineering design space showing the Innovation Center with design stations, worktables, and teaching wall locations.


Figure 2. Design station and worktable


Figure 3. Two teaching walls showing one with whiteboard in the up position and the other in the down position. (Flat screen display mount is not yet installed on vertical center rails.)

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