EDC Team

Fuko Tsutura, Chris Wong, and Giovanni Wuisan


Library Model

A model of the multimedia center/library produced by the EDC students


Library Finished

The finished center/library

Principal’s dream realized

EDC students design new multimedia center/library

When Rosalie Musiala, principal of Evanston’s Pope John XXIII School, called Fuko Tsuruta, Chris Wong, and Giovanni Wuisan to her office in August 2006, they went quickly and gladly. The McCormick seniors were eager to see what Musiala, their former client, wanted to show them at the school, about a mile south of Northwestern. The multi-media center/library that the Northwestern students had designed for the school as freshmen in 2004 was now a reality.

“We were in awe that it actually happened,” says Wong. “To see a room — something you can walk into, sit in, and read in — that is of your own design and creation was great.”

The school’s old library was in an annex, not in the school’s main building, and it was too small: There was only enough room for books used by students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Now students from kindergarten through eighth grade take advantage of the bright and spacious new library — reading alone, checking out books, studying, listening to stories, or learning in an honors algebra class. The library has 8,800 volumes — twice as many as the old one — and 20 laptop computers with wireless Internet connections. And it is located in the school’s main building.

“This has been my dream, and we are very proud of it,” says Musiala, who is in her 10th year as principal of Pope John XXIII. “I’m a big proponent of reading, and books are integral to an elementary school. The library needed to be where the kids are.”

An inspiring client
After conceiving the idea of a new multimedia center/library five years ago, Musiala approached the McCormick School with her project. She signed on as a client for the school’s Engineering Design and Communication (EDC) program, required of all engineering students. Each spring EDC teams work to solve nearly 100 real-world design problems brought to them by individuals, not-for-profit organizations, entrepreneurs, and industry. This was not Musiala’s first time as an EDC client. A few years ago EDC students designed a safe traffic-flow pattern that is still used during student pick-up and drop-off times at Pope John XXIII. And last spring another EDC team planned a renovation of the school’s science laboratories that was completed in time for the new school year. But the multimedia center/library has been the biggest project at the school.

“I’m a big fan of Northwestern,” says Musiala, who has two sons who are alumni of the University. “I am always impressed with Northwestern students. They are intelligent, thorough, ask the right questions, and do their research. The student teams we’ve worked with have been excellent.”

Tsuruta, Wong, and Wuisan — who met during their first day of classes at Northwestern and became friends — chose to work together on Musiala’s project during the spring quarter of their freshman year. That was in 2004. At the time, no one knew if money would be available to build Musiala’s library. She told the team not to worry about a specific budget; she wanted their best ideas — as long as they were practical.

While tackling the design issues of the multimedia center/library, Tsuruta, Wong, and Wuisan also learned how to become more effective communicators. The three first-year students spent 10 weeks acting like engineers in industry: They conducted user interviews with students and teachers, brainstormed ideas, wrote memos and proposals, revised their designs, built prototypes, and made a final oral presentation to their client, Musiala, along with three teachers.

“This was a good way of introducing the engineering design concept to freshmen,” says Wong, who graduated in June 2007 with a BS/MS in materials science and engineering and is now working for Dow Corning. “Mrs. Musiala was so happy to help during the process that the project went very smoothly.”

“We wanted to do our best to meet the requirements of our client, not just get a passing grade in the class,” says Tsuruta, a fifth-year senior studying civil engineering and music performance. “The good relationship we had with Mrs. Musiala helped us cultivate this attitude. In this way, EDC taught us something that no other required class did but that is essential for any engineer: how to work closely with a client. There’s no greater satisfaction than the pride we have in the good work we did and its effect on others — in this case, students and teachers of Pope John XXIII.”

Wuisan, who is studying mechanical engineering and economics, is also is a fifth-year senior. Both he and Tsuruta are participating in McCormick’s Walter P. Murphy Cooperative Engineering Education Program.

Understanding the requirements
The McCormick students first set out to understand the requirements for the school’s multimedia center/library. The school wanted a flexible space with half designed for younger students and half for older students; unobstructed views for the librarian; space for computers; a screen and whiteboards for classes and presentations; the ability to conduct two classes or meetings at one time; and space for twice as many books as the old library.

Tsuruta, Wong, and Wuisan then proposed a number of designs to Musiala and got her feedback. They combined all of this information into a new design and identified the best location for the library: two unused rooms on the second floor of the school. In addition to room layout, the students had to consider any potential structural problems. Because the blueprint of the school building could not be located, the students were unable to determine if the wall separating the two rooms — which, according to their plan, would have to come down — was load bearing or non–load bearing. They provided an estimate and plans for both alternatives. The team also talked to the Evanston Fire Department to learn of any potential hazards with construction.

For their final 20-minute oral presentation to Musiala and three teachers, Tsuruta, Wong, and Wuisan built a large, detailed scale model of the proposed multimedia center/library out of cardboard, colored paper, and wire. Musiala and her team gathered around to discuss their opinions of the design. Musiala then took the model and placed it in the school’s lobby so all students, teachers, and parents could see it.

The next challenge was Musiala’s — finding the funds to make the plan a reality. Thanks to $100,000 in seed money from J. Howard and Helen M. Reed and part of a $1 million bequest from Marion Chase, the J. Howard and Helen M. Reed Multimedia Center is now in its second school year of operation.

“When I was down, thinking the new library might never happen, I bought sculptures,” says Musiala. “I packed them away — a wish box for when the library was finished.”

Those pieces of art, of different styles and sizes, now are scattered on shelves across the multimedia center/library, nestled among and above the fiction, nonfiction, and picture books — Musiala’s personal stamp on her dream come true.

For more information on participating as an EDC client, visit www.segal.northwestern.edu/edc.

—Megan Fellman