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Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

MEM Students Create Vending Machine for Engineering Supplies

By Anna Fiorentino
May 2013 • CoolStuff

Forget cola and candy. Dartmouth’s newest vending machine offers consumables of another kind: batteries, duct tape, epoxy and other project supplies. Installed outside the entrance to Thayer School's Machine Shop, the vending machine dispenses necessities 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Product list
A partial list of inventory.

“The Vending Machine Project provides authorized students with access to materials for project work any time, at no charge,” says Srivatsan Vasudevan MEM’13, whose job as Machine Shop Teaching Assistant (TA) is to facilitate student project work.

Before the vending machine arrived, students could only access these supplies from inside the instrument room and the Machine Shop on weekdays until 4:30pm, and would often ask TAs to locate them. Now, 33 small items approved by professors including adhesives and gloves—in even higher student demand than traditional mill components like nuts, bolts and tools—are available in one place, freeing up TAs to train on technical aspects of project work. This new addition also cuts back on distractions caused by those who visit the machine shop only to gather materials for their course-related projects.

“There was a need to consolidate all the frequently used items in the Machine Shop and Couch Project Lab so that the students and TAs do not waste time on trivial issues while completing various projects,” says Vasudevan, adding the contents of the vending machine are listed next to the machine itself.

Vasudevan and three MEMs who also double as Machine Shop TAs—Amogh Poudyal MEM’13,  Mani Alaei MEM’13 and Yerwa Dheeraj Reddy MEM’13—refurbished an old vending machine by disconnecting the refrigeration unit and slapping on a Dartmouth ID, or DASH, card reader. They implemented a return policy for reusable items and laid out a plan for tracking inventory, fraud management and sourcing supplies for future vending. Now students simply swipe their DASH cards to complete transactions for all the free materials they need, within a limit of $50 a week or $200 a term, paid for by the machine shop.

The TAs tackled the vending machine project at the suggestion of Machine Shop Manager Kevin Baron and Associate Professor of Engineering Christopher Levey. “Using a vending machine to stock and dispense consumables is consistent with a larger effort to make effective use of machine shop student staff in its maintenance and operation,” says Baron. “The idea never really went anywhere until I asked the MEM group to find a way to keep supplies on hand for student use.”

The vending machine arrived on the tail end of a complete reengineering of the Machine Shop last year that introduced all new machines, iPads and a revamped FileMaker inventory system that together make machining at Dartmouth simpler than ever before.

MEM students with machine
(l to r) Yerwa Dheeraj Reddy MEM’13, Srivatsan Vasudevan MEM’13, and Amogh Poudyal MEM’13

vending machines
Snacks and supplies, 24-7

Tags: facilities

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