A newsletter for alumni, students, and friends of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Message From the Chair

Kenneth W. Ragland

Kenneth W. Ragland
(48K JPG)

As everyone in Wisconsin knows, this is our Sesquicentennial Year and thus a good time to think about our roots in the Mechanical Engineering Department. Mechanical engineering study was introduced in 1877, 29 years after the founding of the university. Classrooms, drafting rooms, a machine shop, steam and hydraulic power labs, and a materials testing lab were established in the old Science Hall. There was a strong emphasis on development of hands-on skills as evidenced by the 920 clock hours of shop work required for graduation. In 1884 old Science Hall burned down and was replaced by the present Science Hall.
Steam Power Laboratory in 1935

Steam Power Laboratory in current ME Building circa 1935. (46K JPG)

In 1900 ME moved to a new Engineering Building on Bascom Hill (now the old Education Building). The ME curriculum consisted of four areas: thermal engineering, machine design, shop practice and "cultural" subjects. The motivation for the addition of cultural studies was that engineers should not only know how to do but also what to do. A one-story addition to the Engineering Building housed a variety of steam engines, a 15 ton refrigeration plant, a 50 horsepower, two-stage, steam-driven air compressor, and several gasoline engines. Tuition was free to in-state students and $20 per semester for out-of-state students. Rooms could be obtained for $1 per week. In 1903 the ME enrollment was 87 men, and the graduating class consisted of 13 men. One of the first senior theses (1905) was on "Efficiency Test of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company's Plant in Milwaukee," by W. B. Uihlein, clearly a student application of "how to do and what to do." The current Mechanical Engineering building was dedicated in 1931 at a cost of $577,000. This was the first engineering building on the current engineering campus.

Today, 121 years after the beginnings of the Mechanical Engineering Department and 150 years after statehood, we are continuing to build upon the foundation established by our predecessors. The curriculum continues to emphasize energy, design and manufacturing subjects, but with high-powered modeling and analysis included. Hands-on laboratory experience is as important as ever. And the concept that engineers must know how to do, as well as what to do, from a societal and environmental perspective is more valid than ever. As we move into the next century one trend that we can expect is a closer connection between mechanical and electrical engineering education producing the electromechanical engineer, just as manufacturing and business have moved closer together. There are many opportunities to embrace as we continue to build on our past.

ME Newsletter is a periodic publication of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Mechanical Engineering. Correspondence should be sent to the address below.

ME Newsletter
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1513 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706-1572

      Editor: Gail Gawenda

Designer: Lynda Litzkow

Webmaster: Eric Gracyalny

Last Modified: Monday, 15-Feb-1999 12:00:00 CST

DECEMBER 1998 Contents