PRL Room 36

As part of my GSB visit, I stopped by Room 36 — part of the Mechanical Engineering department’s Product Realization Lab.

While Room 36 is just the “light” workshop (there are also “heavy” workshops with metal foundry, metal working, woodworking, rapid prototyping, etc.), the facility is quite capable. Students can gain access to all the PRL facilities by paying a very reasonable shop fee (this year it was only $100 for a full academic year) and taking an orientation / safety briefing. While there are some ME classes that utilize the PRL facilities, it is NOT necessary to be enrolled in one of those classes to gain access to the PRL’s resources.

Marlo Kohn, who runs Room 36, was kind enough to give me a brief tour. Tools include a couple small laser cutters, industrial sewing machines, drill press, scroll saw, bandsaw, vinyl cutter, heat transfer press, etc.

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There is also a well stocked pair of electronics benches with computers, o-scopes, soldering stations, adjustable power supplies, etc. The PRL also sells common components, so unless you’re working on something exotic, you shouldn’t need to leave campus to procure parts. There are several decent shops nearby if you do need to buy parts that are not normally stocked (Jameco, Fry’s Electronics, etc.).

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Perhaps most useful to me, they also have a pair of industrial-grade 3D printers. They allow students to use the Stratasys FDM and 3D Systems Projet printers for only the cost of raw materials (e.g. resin). They do not charge for machine time! So I will definitely take advantage of these machines…


I will definitely try to work in ME 203 and ME 318 while I’m on campus!

I’m probably causing some confusion — is this guy a GSB student or a ME student?? Well, I’m more personally excited by the economy of “stuff” than I am by the economy of information. Being able to put your hands on your creation has an amazing impact on most people. I’m no exception.


Visited GSB campus

Ok, got back from my trip to Palo Alto!

Virginia and Sally answered all my questions and arranged a class visit for me. Most pressing for me: If you have any pets, you will need to find off-campus housing (unless it is a certified service animal). So we will definitely be looking for a rental house or apartment that is dog-friendly.

I got to sit in on Prof. Aaker’s Marketing class (this is part of the Sloan core curriculum). This class was dominated by guest speakers which had interesting perspectives on modern marketing methods. The Sloan students had also prepared “elevator pitch” style marketing solutions to assigned case study problems. Since I don’t know the context of the overall course, it’s hard for me to comment on how this day factors in to the overall goal — but I can say that the class was engaging and interesting.

I was surprised that the Sloanies weren’t more outspoken as there were relatively few questions, but clearly they were paying attention. Some were sitting back and absorbing the presentations and others were taking notes furiously (either handwritten or laptops open). I was also surprised that there weren’t more laptops open — I only counted 6 active laptop users (a few more closed) and a couple tablet users.

Guest speakers represented these firms:

  • Klout (social / media analytics specifically measuring influence)
  • Gilt (e-Commerce specializing in high-end / exclusive brand products)
  • Edelman (PR firm specializing in tech clients)

The lecture hall (classroom) is reasonably comfortable. This particular room has a 3-part front wall that is slightly angled inward and the entire wall behind me was glass. The front wall can be any combination of whiteboards and projection screens. The room is tiered — each row is one step higher than the row in front. The chairs were comfortable, but could be better…


I also had lunch in the Arbuckle Dining Pavilion — the sushi is actually quite good. But it can be difficult to find an open table…

Overall, the new GSB campus is beautiful. The buildings are inside out — there are no interior hallways. I was surprised by this, but it totally makes sense in a climate where the weather is so nice most of the time. Simply no reason to force people to stay indoors. Almost every classroom or office suite is directly accessible to the outside. The upper floors are connected with balcony-style walkways and open stairwells. Solar panels on most of the roofs and signs proudly stating use of reclaimed rainwater for flushing toilets.

Although the GSB campus is at the periphery of the other Stanford academic buildings, it is a short walk to the rest of campus. I was able to walk from GSB to the Huang Mechanical Engineering building in less than 15 minutes. It was easy to see when classes let out — a throng of bicycles would appear in the streets and sidewalks. Clearly bikes are probably the most common mode of cross-campus transportation.

Going to visit campus

My wife and I decided to go visit campus and get acquainted with the local neighborhoods so we can start thinking about where to live. We’ve got a couple dogs, so I think on-campus housing will not be an option for us.

Virginia Mak helped me get a class visit scheduled, so I’ll be sitting in on a Sloan core Marketing class on Thursday. Hopefully, I’ll meet some of the current cohort and pick up a few pearls of wisdom.

I’ve also scheduled a visit to PRL Room 36 – so I’ll have a chance to get some questions answered and see their available resources.

I’ll try to take some pictures on this trip and post them here. The new Knight Management Center looks awesome – but I haven’t seen many interior photos posted. So I’ll try to share what I see.

Ok, here is another awesome looking program in the Mechanical Engineering department. claims to be a multi-disciplinary “hub for innovators” – so for you other incoming Sloanies who also have an entrepreneurial inclination, sounds like there might be some classes offered here that we can’t afford to miss. Take a look at their course offerings here: 

Personally, these look most interesting to me:


I’m really curious to see how we will be able to select our electives and wedge them into our schedules. I’m starting to get concerned that one year is very short when there are potential scheduling conflicts with required courses. Could be very difficult to coordinate the classes we find most helpful.

Girl’s PoV

Looks like more Sloanies from the Class of 2013 are getting into blogging!

There’s a new blog written from a woman’s point-of-view. I also happen to like how she describes the class shopping experience and wedging one’s self into elective classes with long wait lists. Personally, I think these blogs from our predecessors will be invaluable in deciding which classes to add to our own schedule.

I also asked Sten about the elective selection process. In summary, as Sloanies, we can take electives in the GSB or “across the street” in other Stanford departments. But, there are cases where some classes won’t be allowed, schedules will conflict, etc. So, in theory, electives can be any graduate-level course – but in reality, there are practical limits that will constrain our choices a bit.

Product Realization Lab

Here in Virginia, I have been supporting Nova Labs – a local makerspace that has fueled my maker passion and inspired my latest hobbies – 3D printing and laser cutting. I was curious to see how I could continue to make things with a drastically smaller set of tools at my disposal while temporarily in California.

Well, good news!

The Stanford Mechanical Engineering department has a sub-department that fills – and goes way beyond – the makerspace capabilities that I currently use. For those of you who like to make things, you need to check this out…

I will definitely fill some of my electives in PRL.