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‘The Space’ Is a Place for Ideas Beyond the Classroom

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Leana Grotz (right) with two CEAS students in “The Space.”

Room 105 in the Engineering Building has transformed from an underutilized CAD Lab to “The Space,” filled with 3D printers, an electronics station, vinyl cutter, and access to hand tools and building spaces.

Leana Grotz, an instructional support specialist in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) — her alma mater — was charged with the creation of The Space. “It’s a place that will enable students to embark on a journey of discovery where classwork seamlessly intertwines with personal projects and boundaries blur between theory and practice. It embodies a spirit of ingenuity, resilience, and limitless possibilities,” she said.

College of Engineering and Applied Sciences students gathered together on May 6 to participate in a soft opening of The Space. Grotz and Joseph (Joe) Schurz, supervisor of CEAS Support Shops, said a few words about the project to the students. CEAS Dean Andrew Singer and Associate Deans Jon Longtin and Robert Kukta were also at the event.

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Alex Herrera with Associate Dean Robert Kukta (left) and Joe Shurz (right) in “The Space.”

In March 2023, Grotz began working in her current role, as she was finishing her master’s degree in mechanical engineering, the subject she also studied to earn her bachelor’s degree.

Grotz credits her supervisor, Schurz, with initially recognizing that “students needed a space to work and explore their creativity in a hands-on manner, especially CEAS students.” She said, “When I started working full-time, Joe trusted me to come up with a thorough plan on how to successfully turn our vision into a reality.”

While Grotz assisted with the Fundamentals of Machining Practices course (MEC 225), as well as requests to the machine shop, she worked alongside a committee for approximately a year. After identifying an appropriate location, furniture and equipment were ordered, and each piece needed to be built.

The Space committee members included faculty and staff members from the Departments of Civil Engineering, Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering. Alongside Grotz and Schurz were Justin Antionette, Amanda Flanagan, Austin Giordano, Noah Machtay, Jim Quinn and Spencer Zimmerman. Grotz is also appreciative for the encouragement of Longtin and Kukta, as well as Singer, who all, “believed in my idea and supported me every step of the way.”

“It has been an absolute joy to see The Space come to life! Leana, Joe and the rest of the team along with Dean Singer’s guidance and support have done an amazing job of designing, building and equipping this facility,” said Longtin. “The Space will be a vibrant wellspring for countless future innovations, ideas and projects, and I’m thrilled that our students now have access to such a wonderful resource.”

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Dean Andrew Singer with CEAS students and their rocket in “The Space.”

The Space will welcome all CEAS undergraduate students, beginning Fall 2024. There will be dedicated workshop times for training.

“Once the students are trained,” Grotz said, “there will be ‘Open Space’ hours where they can come in and reserve a time to use equipment and work collaboratively with team members on a group project. It can also be used for ideas for beyond the classroom. If a student wants to explore a project, The Space will help them initiate that idea.”

“Leana’s commitment to making The Space a success is unparalleled,” said Schurz. “As a recent graduate of Stony Brook, she brought with her a personal understanding of what the student needs. Her passion for giving back to the university and its students is absolutely selfless. I have been fortunate to have witnessed Leana go from a MEC 225 student to a leader who truly cares about the student experience and creating a space for our Stony Brook community to tap into their own potential.”

In the near future, the committee will be exploring additional equipment offerings to compliment the ever-developing needs of students pursuing innovative engineering projects.

For more information about The Space, please contact The_Space@stonybrook.edu.

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