Engineering students still struggling as CSUF’s machine shop approved for new machinist

Machines lie dormant in room E-30, part of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Photo by Michael Arellano/Daily Titan Staff Writer

The beginning of a semester for most Cal State Fullerton students means settling into their classes, buying books at the last minute and making new friends. While finals week may be the last thing on the minds of these students, some seniors in the engineering department are already worrying about the completion of their final projects.

With the design and visual phases of the project completed last semester, students must now complete the building phase, which requires the use of the departments machine shop located in room E-30.

Due to the unexpected retirement of machinist and student supervisor David Parsons, the machines sit silently in room E-30 for several hours a day. The department was only recently granted approval to hire a replacement after Parsons retirement last fall.

Fred Hogarth, engineering senior and team leader for the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE), is working along with his teammates on a race car for their final project. Hogarth said there is considerable worry among seniors who are depending on the use of the machine shop to complete their projects.

“We need those machines to complete our projects, and if we cannot complete our projects, we cannot graduate,” Hogarth said.

Senior John Woodland, electrical engineering major, has been attending CSUF for six years and often assists students in the machine shop.

“I can be here,” Woodland said, “but [students] also need someone from the faculty to be here as well.”

With students looking to the colleges for a solution, Dr. Raman Unnikrishnan, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, said that the issue at hand is more complex than it seems.

“The students need to understand how the budget crisis is impacting everyone, even more so at the instructional level,” Unnikrishnan said.

Unnikrishnan said the college is dealing with a lot of different problems: three retirements in a very short period, state-wide furloughs (which has reduced available work time by 10 percent) and an ever increasing workload.

The dean also said that hiring a replacement for any staff member who retires is not as easy as it seems.

Many staff members who retire usually have at least a month of accumulated vacation time. The college has to wait until the end of that period to even begin looking for a replacement. And because of the budget crisis, Unnikrishnan said there is an additional 60-day period until a replacement can be approved for any position.

As for hiring a new equipment technician for the machine shop, Unnikrishnan said that he received approval to recruit a replacement in mid-January, but finding a skilled machinist to supervise and handle the machines is not easy.

“This is not like using a computer. These are machines that need to be handled by someone who is highly experienced,” Unnikrishnan said.

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