TitleManaging Large Enrollments – M&IE Computer Labs and Hands-on Lab Space Upgrades Request Date2012-11-30
DepartmentMechanical & Industrial Engineering
RequestorChris Jenkins Phone406-994-2203
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts  
Proposed Dates Start: 1/1/13 End: 8/31/13
Mechanical & Industrial Engineering (M&IE) has experienced unprecedented enrollment growth. The largest academic department at MSU, M&IE has undergone 55% enrollment growth in the last four years and currently has 73 majors per TT faculty FTE. This proposal will fund improvements of MIE’s student laboratory space to accommodate large enrollments. Funds will be used to (1) revitalize existing space to accommodate more students, (2) repair, replace, and modernize existing laboratory equipment, and (3) expand student computer facilities. These funds will ensure that MIE students have access to modern equipment and facilities.
• Objective A.1: Educate more students while maintaining the quality of programs
Continued student enrollment growth in the M&IE department has stretched the departmental resources available to a point where it is unable to offer adequate computer and lab course sections to accommodate these students. Computer courses are limited to 30 students because of lab space and the ability of the professors to adequately meet the needs of the students in the course. Simply adding more seats reduces the student /professor interaction time, thus decreasing quality significantly. Additionally, the current computer facility is fully booked, thus limiting new section growth. Re-aligning current lab space and adding a new computer teaching space, with appropriate computing capacity, will alleviate this problem and ensure that course outcomes are met for all students.
Due to the nature of lab courses, increasing section sizes is not an appropriate solution to meet the demand. Current lab sections are limited to between 10 and 15 students in order to manage them effectively, as well as allow them to utilize the available lab equipment. Increases in this number compromises safety as well as interferes with a quality educational experience. Engineering labs are “hands-on” labs, and all students must be given the opportunity to obtain these essential hands-on experiences. Increasing section sizes, without adequate increases in qualified faculty supervision and available equipment, tends to decrease the quality of the lab experience.
• Objective L.2: Increase graduation rates at MSU
A secondary benefit to increases in lab facilities and equipment is the ability to offer the appropriate amount of course and lab sections created by student demand, thus supporting matriculation to graduation. Thus, student growth will lead to increased graduation rates.
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Materials & Supplies 30000  25000           
Contracted Services 25000  20000           
Other Operations              
TOTAL 55000  45000     
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

OTO Costs:

  • Computer facilities upgrade (electrical and network) = $25,000
  • New computers to populate identified/remodeled space = $30,000
  • Manufacturing and Joining Facilities Upgrade =  $20,000
  • Addition of new lab equipment = $25,000

Cost Share:

M&IE Department to provide summer salary for management and implementation of the upgrades -- $10,000.


Total OTO ($100,000)


(Estimates available upon request)

Describe the Proposal

This proposal is designed to upgrade computing educational facilities, as well as laboratory equipment and facilities within the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department.  Current enrollment for our department exceeds 1000 students across 3 undergraduate majors (Mechanical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Industrial Engineering) and graduate programs (MS in Mechanical Engineering, MS in Industrial and Management Engineering, and PhD in Engineering).  The exponential growth in enrollment in the MIE Department has placed significant strain on the departmental resources – both personnel and facilities – to maintain the quality of education for the expanding numbers of students.  Indeed, it is that same quality which, in part, attracted the students here in the first place.  The enrollment in M&IE has outpaced the MSU average and has the highest number of majors per faculty FTE at MSU (73.4 majors/TT FTE) – more than double the MSU average (see figures at! 

 Both recent and continued growth require expanding the capacity of our laboratory courses.  Currently all laboratory courses have waitlists which cannot be fully accommodated without expanding the capacity of the existing laboratory spaces. Successful completion of this proposal will help to manage these large enrollments by providing additional capacity for each laboratory.  Funds will be utilized to begin the process of revitalizing existing space, expanding computer facilities, and repairing, replacing, and modernizing laboratory equipment for meeting the demands of high enrollments.

The lab facilities that are crucial to a high level of interactive learning of advanced technical skills are limited, so lab section enrollment cannot be simply increased unless the demands on the lab facility, lab equipment, lab safety, and skilled personnel to setup and maintain the lab is fully accounted for.  The laboratory based courses have grown to the upper limit of sustainability with current equipment and methods as demonstrated by lab classes consistently enrolling to capacity with remaining waitlisted students.  Over the last four academic years, the number of M&IE lab sections has increased by 50% to a record high 73 this AY (see figure at

 Despite continuously increasing the number of lab sections, the MIE department's unprecedented enrollment growth continues to result in enrollments beyond what current facilities and personnel can manage. (In this figure, the number of lab sections are plotted in blue, and the average enrollment as a percentage of the cap is plotted in red.)  While this enrollment data demonstrates substantial limitations, it underestimates the size of the problem, as scheduling conflicts often prohibit students from taking lab sections despite lecture availability.  The error bars indicate the upper range of cap values demonstrating that despite adding sections, we are still enrolled beyond capacity.  The dashed line is at capacity indicating that even the average lab sizes are approaching capacity.  The effects of these limitations are slower times to graduation, particularly if students fail a capped course after having to wait at least a semester to enroll.

Existing MIE space within both Roberts Hall and the Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS) Building will be renovated to add additional computer facilities and create room for additional students in existing laboratory classes.  Space that is currently single and dual usage will be remodeled to be multi-use space capable of serving additional students.  Currently, MIE houses several student laboratories including the Computer Integrated Manufacturing Lab, Joining Lab, Manufacturing Lab, Design Lab, Instrumentation Lab, Fluid Power Lab, Ergonomics Lab, Computer Aided Design and Drafting Lab, and the Decision Support Systems Laboratory.  The space renovation funds will go toward (1) consolidating and combining several of these facilities to accommodate larger student enrollments and (2) revitalizing existing single and dual use space to become multi-use space capable of serving each of the 3 undergraduate programs within the department.  Faculty from all programs within the department will assist with the space renovation toward optimizing learning experiences and student throughput. 

Computer facilities will be expanded to accommodate growth in the following courses, all of which utilize the computer design labs extensively:

EMEC 103 - CAE I: Engineering Graphics Communications

EMEC 203 - CAE II: ME Computation

ETME 203 – Mechanical Design Graphics

ETME 303 – CAE Tools in Mechanical Design

EMEC 403 – CAE IV: Design Integration

The addition of more computer space will also allow larger lab sections for software-based courses such as:

EMEC 405 - Finite Element Analysis

ETME 345 – Machine Design

ETME 410 – CNC & CAM Technology

The Manufacturing and Joining Labs will be consolidated and upgraded to allow for implementation of safer equipment for student usage as well as additional fabrication machines to serve larger enrollments.  Courses benefiting from this activity include:

ETME 217 – Manufacturing Processes Lab

ETME 311 – Joining Technologies


Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

This project will directly impact undergraduate STEM education in mechanical engineering, mechanical engineering technology, and industrial engineering.  It will also impact graduate programs in mechanical engineering.  This proposal also supports the “MSU Strategic Plan”, specifically:

  • Objective A.1: Educate more students while maintaining the quality of programs
  • Objective D.2: Enhance infrastructure in support of research, discovery, and creative activities
  • Objective E.1: Strategically increase service, outreach, and engagement at MSU
  • Objective I.1: Increase the integration of learning, discovery and engagement
  • Objective L.2: Increase graduation rates at MSU
  • Objective S.1: Human Resources, Attract, develop and retain the best faculty and staff to achieve the MSU mission.

Implementation of this plan will help ensure that the facilities are available to accommodate the quality education expected from Montana State University Department of M&IE.

Implementation Plan

This plan will be implemented beginning in January of 2013 when faculty will compile a list of facilities, equipment, and relevant courses.  Space-saving options will be discussed leading to a plan of which spaces will be renovated and which equipment to replace and upgrade.  New equipment will be specified, prioritized and ordered as funds allow.  A 5-year facilities upgrade plan to be developed to guide facilities upgrades in the future.

 In July and August of 2013, existing equipment will be moved, old equipment will be disposed of, and new equipment will be installed.  Relevant faculty will be trained on the new equipment.  All of this will happen prior to the start of the Fall 2013 semester.  Space renovation will be completed during this time.  The anticipated space renovations are small such as wall removal and table installations with anticipated costs less than $25,000.  Per MSU rules, renovations of this magnitude may be performed by a private contractor, which will be selected by the MIE Department from 3 external bids.

 Over the Fall semester of 2013, the space adjustments and equipment installations will be finalized.  Faculty and students will be trained on the new equipment. 

Finally, assessment of this project will occur following the 2014 Spring semester.  Assessment will determine whether laboratory capacity and safety have been increased and if the needs of the students enrolled in the program are being met.

 Project Management Plan


Development Activity


1. Evaluation of current laboratory facilities.  Work group to compile list of facilities, equipment, affected courses, and current teaching methods. Outcomes of each lab course will be evaluated, alternative (space saving) methods discussed and developed, and revised space requirements identified. Replacement plans for out-of-date equipment with state-of-the-art equipment will be generated. Student satisfaction survey issued.

2. Determination of required space.  Based on step 1, future space requirements will be determined and a space re-assignment plan developed.

3. Purchase new lab equipment.   P.O.’s for new laboratory equipment will be generated and processed.



4. Implement revision to facilities.  Based on the initial findings, we will move equipment and schedule the needed facilities improvements.

5. Installation of New Equipment New equipment will be installed and tested.


6. Finalization / Semester Preparation  Equipment will be evaluated over all required laboratory tasks.   Faculty will learn operation and technical details of the new equipment.  Courses will be updated to include the new equipment, and new laboratory exercises will be created pending available time and machine functionality.

May 2014 thru June 2014

1. Assessment.  M&IE Leadership Team will assess effectiveness of plan implementation.

2. Evaluation of assessment data.  Team will evaluate success (based on assessment data) and generate continuous improvement plan for lab and computer facilities.

Assessment Plan

Success of this project will be measured via both (1) interviews with laboratory faculty and students, and (2) examination of laboratory section enrollment data conducted by the Department Head. 

The interviews will determine the effectiveness of the new equipment, larger computer labs, and space revitalization in terms of managing larger enrollments, as well as evaluating whether or not student safety has been improved.  A survey of student satisfaction with M&IE labs will be conducted early next semester to provide a baseline for comparison with survey results later in the project.  Results will be reviewed by the M&IE leadership team.

Enrollment data will be compared with data from the previous 3 years to determine if additional students are being served. 

(See Project Management above for schedule.)

If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

If larger enrollments are not facilitated by this plan, department-wide faculty meetings will be held toward improved methods for managing large enrollments, and these results will be shared with the College of Engineering Dean and Provost.

Department Head: Chris Jenkins (
Dean/Director: Brett Gunnink (
Executive/VP: Martha Potvin (