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The handful of students and scholars who took a leap of faith to specialize in mechanical engineering at the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy 100 years ago would scarcely recognize the 21st century version of their former home.
With just three faculty members overseeing a similarly small number of students in the department’s early years, professors and their charges were surely well-acquainted with each other. Their headquarters was Mechanical Hall, a building also used as a public meeting space, basketball court and weekend social venue. When it came time for school dances, the mechanical drawing tables and woodworking equipment would be pushed aside into a corner of the campus “ballroom.”
These days, more than 1,100 undergraduate and graduate students and 40 full-time faculty call the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering home, making us the largest academic unit at what is now the Missouri University of Science and Technology. And in place of Mechanical Hall -- and its successor, the Mechanical Engineering Annex -- is Toomey Hall, a three-story, 145,000-square-foot facility that opened in 2009 as part of a $28 million construction and renovation project.
Throughout the next year of celebrating the centennial of the department, there will be many events, special seminars, and opportunities to give.
Under the leadership of Chair Harold Shields Dickerson, the new Department of Mechanical Engineering replaces what had been known as the Department of Shopwork and Drawing. The initial curriculum includes courses in boilers and engines, forge work, foundry and valve gears.
Developments in refrigeration and air-conditioning fuel the growth of mechanical engineering in Rolla -- and the world at large. By the late 1940s, the department would assume the title of largest on campus -- a distinction it has continued to hold throughout the subsequent seven decades.
Courses in aerodynamics and airplane structures are added in a precursor to the elevation of aerospace engineering amid the global space race.
Aaron J. Miles, a Missouri School of Mines graduate whose tenure in Rolla started as a campus janitor, is named department chair. He remained in that position for 22 years before becoming MSM’s first dean of engineering.
The Missouri Legislature appropriates $500,000 for the construction of the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory Building, which would be completed three years later. The project helps alleviate a space crunch that required the department’s students to shuttle between three sites: Mechanical Hall for classes in drawing and shop practice; the campus power plant for experimental labs; and Norwood Hall for junior and senior engineering lectures, as well as drafting rooms.
Lloyd Wilson receives the school’s first master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
After a decade of offering degrees in mechanical engineering with an option to specialize in aeronautical engineering, the university upgrades to an aerospace engineering preference program. A name change to the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering follows four years later.
The university receives approval to award doctoral degrees, including in such specialties as aerospace engineering and mechanical design.
The Academy of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineers is founded to recognize outstanding alumni, who serve as advisers to the department.
Toomey Hall is completed, replacing the old Mechanical Engineering Annex (the former Mechanical Hall), which is demolished to make room for the new building.
The department commemorates its 100th anniversary with a yearlong celebration featuring exciting student competition and events, esteemed guest lecturers, and a banquet to honor this milestone in the Spring.