In 2017, long-buried and unused steel railroad tracks were unearthed during West Lafayette’s State Street Renovation Project. Michael B. Cline, Purdue’s senior vice president for administrative operations, oversaw the State Street Redevelopment Project. To preserve the historic artifacts, he had as many of the steel rails unearthed as possible and had some of the better preserved rails cut into 4-inch bookends.
Students Matthew Fitzgerald, senior in systems analysis and design, and Shiv Patel, sophomore in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, took the next step in recognizing the rails’ ties to Purdue. They used the laser engraver at Bechtel Innovation Design Center (Bechtel) to inscribe the steel bookends with two Purdue emblems, the Motion P and the Griffin, plus the name of the Lafayette Street Railway system.
“This was one of the most interesting and fun projects we’ve had the opportunity to work on,” Fitzgerald said. “The steel is, of course, very heavy, and centering the graphics on the rails was a challenge, but Shiv and I were glad we had the opportunity to do the work and learn about the history of the rails.”
Student employees at the Bechtel makerspace provide training and access to high-end equipment with which to build prototypes of design ideas. Students from any Purdue major can use the waterjet, computer-aided design software, 3D printers or laser engravers. Bechtel is also the site for projects that are too large to be undertaken elsewhere on campus.
- Purdue students carve history into 100-year-old train tracks (Purdue Research Foundation)