A 17,000-pound waterjet, made possible with funding from ODU’s Office of the President, tipped the scale on the decision to move the Monarch Engineering and Innovation Lab (M-Lab) to the Engineering Systems Building (ESB).

The machine, valued at $140,000, can cut through six inches of nearly any material, including steel and rubber. Its weight – and 13x13 floor size – prohibited the machine from going into the second floor of Monarch Hall where the M-Lab is currently housed.

It was also a perfect opportunity to re-create ESB as a gateway into the Batten College of Engineering and Technology. “It made sense,” said Kenneth Fridley, dean of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology. “We had this great facility that was hidden away on the 2nd floor of Monarch Hall, and we had underutilized space in our new-ish Engineering Systems Building.”

As a result, Batten College has been in organized chaos this summer; construction, deconstruction and moving – all at the same time as the Maglev removal.

The M-Lab is moving to the three labs currently occupied by First-Year Programs on the first floor of ESB. Each room will accommodate different materials: metal machining, wood, welding, and material processing. A fourth space – currently a Smart Lab operated by the Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering – will house electronics and additive manufacturing. The Smart Lab will move to ESB 1111.

In turn, the space within Monarch Hall will eventually be transformed into an innovative First-Year Engineering Design Studio and Engineering Learning Commons.

Originally called the Engineering Makerspace and Invention Center, the facility was the vision of former dean Stephanie Adams. She imagined a student-run, free-to-use space for collaboration, design and prototyping specifically for engineering majors.

In 2017, Batten College was allocated almost 7,000 square feet of space on the second floor of Monarch Hall to house the facility. It was then equipped with state-of-the-art tools and machines.

The Open House and ribbon cutting were scheduled for April 2, 2020. However, the University – and the rest of the country – closed on March 18 due to the pandemic.

The facility opened quietly without fanfare when the University resumed in the spring of 2021.

Last week workers from the E.T. Gresham Company removed the stair rail from the second floor of Monarch Hall and methodically lowered each piece of machinery onto forklifts. All of the machines were then moved to the lab spaces in ESB.

The workspace designated for electronics and additive manufacturing is already operational and available for projects. The remaining rooms will be set up over the course of the fall semester.