Mechanical engineering sophomore Greg Margolis, the president of a new student organization called Let’s Go Design, was an engineer both by nature and nurture. His father was an engineer, so the genes are all in the family. And by the time Greg was a three-year-old wunderkind in San Antonio, Texas, he was busy taking apart his bathroom. It’s not too surprising, then, that by the time he reached the College of Engineering, he was itching to do some hands-on engineering. So he founded Let’s Go Design, a student organization that currently brings together some 40 student members from different majors who use their technical, intellectual, and personal skills to design and manufacture useful, beneficial, and ingenious inventions of their choice.
It’s just the right organization for somebody with engineering racing through his blood. “That’s where Let’s Go Design comes in,” Greg explains. “It gives vent to the hands-on engineer in me. It’s something I can have fun with.”
What kind of inventions are we talking about? Right now teams from Let’s Go Design are working on a four-by-eight-foot solar panel constructed from Arizona Iced Tea cans; a six-foot-tall “artistic wind turbine” that doubles as a kinetic sculpture; a small hydro-electric generator that resembles an upside-down wind turbine with blades you stick in a river to produce energy; and a wind turbine made from PVC pipes that produces enough energy to power a 12-by-24-foot room and costs only $50 to build.
Let’s Go Design became a twinkle in Greg’s eye last summer, while he was working as an intern at the Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corporation, a Concord-based company that offers complete 3D software tools to let you create, simulate, publish, and manage your engineering designs.
“SolidWorks has this interactive web series called Let’s Go Design for students,” Greg says. “So, inspired by that, I thought about starting a club at UMass, based on that idea. I talked to my boss about it, who suggested I name our new club Let’s Go Design as well. That was the start. That’s where the idea came from initially.”
SolidWorks not only talked the talk but walked the walk. It sponsored the UMass Let’s Go Design club by donating $500 in cash, 200 SolidWorks T-shirts that can be sold to raise money for the club, and a set of SolidWorks student software for computer-aided design, drawing, and simulation of inventions.
What do members get out of Let’s Go Design? First of all, the activity, in effect, serves as a sort of lower-level capstone course to prepare members in advance for their senior design projects, giving them hands-on design and engineering experience way ahead of the curve. Another benefit is what they can put on their resumes: not only the products they have designed and invented, but the certification they can earn from using the SolidWorks software. Members of Let’s Go Design will also spend a lot of quality time in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department machine shop, which will include future safety training courses leading to certification.
Greg regards his time in the machine shop as especially valuable. “If I’m going to be designing the next rocket ship,” he speculates, “and I don’t know how a machine shop would be building those parts, or I don’t know how a machine shop works, how am I going to design it?”
One other benefit for members is that Let’s Go Design will act as a pipeline to their future. Greg is recruiting corporate sponsors for next year, and all these companies will act as natural breeding grounds for internships and permanent jobs. Greg, himself, is a role model in this regard. Having put in a summer as an executive marketing intern at SolidWorks, he’s already signed up for another internship in the education division there next summer. And his ultimate goal is working at SolidWorks after he graduates.
The productive relationship he’s formed with the company as an intern and the president of an organization it sponsors should give him a huge head start. So should his extracurricular activities as the unofficial heart, soul, and moving spirit behind Let’s Go Design.
Besides Greg, the other officers of Let’s Go Design are Vice President Colin Pespisa, Secretary Frank May, Treasurer Andrew Costain, and Project Manager Kyle Turner. (March 2011)