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Cal Poly’s “learn by doing” motto is put into full effect when alumnus Paul R. Bonderson, Jr. donated $8 million to fund the Bonderson Projects Center in the College of Engineering to provide a space for students to work together on projects.

The 1975 electrical engineer graduate announced that he will also be contributing $550,000 to support funding on student projects.

“(Bonderson) put up half a million endowment available (for fall of next year) to provide funds for any team or club trying to build a project,” said assistant dean of the College of Engineering, Matthew Cottle. “It’s my understanding that this is the first major building on campus that is built entirely by a private funding. It is all Paul.”

Bonderson’s financial support for students was a result of his own senior project 35 years ago.

“For his senior project, he designed and built an electronic clipboard for collecting traffic information. It got him his first job at Intel, and the company paid for the product that he designed. (From there), he went on to have a successful career,” said director of publication and communications for the College of Engineering, Amy Hewes.

Bonderson hopes that with the Projects Center running, current students at Poly will have the opportunity to work together and experience training and close supervision with skilled technicians.

“He wants to make sure that there is a place for students to work together; it’s a place where a team of students can work on a whole variety of projects or whatever they want. (Bonderson) was a strong advocate of the ‘hands-on’ learning theory,” Hewes said.

And students have taken full advantage of the opportunity to use the Bonderson Projects Center since its opening in November 2006. Located in the Projects Center is the Mustang ’60 Project Shop, a place for students to drill, bend and shape metal, wood, plastic and other material that is available with the help of high-tech machinery.

“I go to the Projects Center a lot for meetings and to use the ‘60 lab (because) it’s full of giant tools. It’s the best place to go because no one has giant machinery at their house that anyone can use. And it’s convenient since it’s on campus,” electrical engineer junior and director of Team Tech Kelli DeVlugt said.

Not only is it beneficial for students at the university but more suitable when visitors come.

“We use the giant meeting room for engineering student council or Society of Women’s Engineering (SWE) meetings. We’ve hosted companies there so they can give their presentations, and it’s nice to have a building (for them to go to) instead of being stuck in a stuffy classroom,” DeVlugt said.

However, engineering students are not the only ones who can benefit from the Projects Center; the Mustang ’60 Project Shop is available to all students in any major.

“After doing a survey of the clubs, we have found students from 32 different majors in the Mustang ’60 Shop. This was Bonderson’s primary vision,” Cottle said. “He wanted students from all majors participating. His first attention was towards club projects then class projects, all from multiple colleges.”

Currently, the two-story building has a chemistry, computer and electronics lab as well as a wood, metal and robotics shop. Students must be a part of a formal project or student club for use of labs. Labs are scheduled through advisers or faculty members.

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