by Dallas Downing.
When RoboJackets was founded in 2000, it was a handful of students making combat robots in the basement of the Howey Physics Building. Today RoboJackets has grown to over 200 dues-paying members spread across five competitive teams in a 17,000 square-foot workspace shared with the rest of the Student Competition Center. However, the SCC we know today didn’t materialize overnight. It used to live on campus in a now-demolished building called the Mechanical Engineering Research Building, more commonly known as the Tin Building, located behind the Coon Building. Today we’ll take a brief look at the old shop space and the move to our beloved space today.
The Tin Building was built in 1947 using the same design as an ordnance repair shop used by the army in World War II. It was originally built in 1941 in Savannah before being salvaged and rebuilt on Georgia Tech’s campus. Since then it was used by the Mechanical Engineering Department (now the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering) as a laboratory space for graduate and doctorate students. In the 80s, the Tin Building was mostly used as a robotics lab, seeing many projects focused on computer vision and robotics. In 2000, the School of Mechanical Engineering began looking at a space to put the growing student competition teams together, and the Tin Building seemed to be a fitting place. Teams including GT Motorsports, GT OffRoad, SolarJackets, and RoboJackets started moving into the building in 2001. Shortly after the building was dubbed the Student Competition Center for the teams occupying the space.
The Student Competition Center could not stay there forever. The SCC was growing, especially with the addition of WreckRacing, and the building was deteriorating due to its age. Due to safety concerns, the building was condemned to demolition, leaving the teams without a space to work on their numerous technical projects. Dr. William Wepfer, the chair of the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the time, advocated for the SCC teams having a dedicated space to work. With additional support from President Bud Peterson, a facility on 14th street was developed to house the SCC and several other research facilities. In December of 2010, the SCC moved into the new space, where it has resided since. The larger space allowed for more machining tools, like several mills, lathes, and other tools used by all the teams. RoboJackets got a larger dedicated space to accommodate the 3 teams (BattleBots, IGVC, and RoboCup) it had at the time.
Today the SCC is home to seven competitive teams, including RoboJackets. Without the space at the 14th St Engineering Building, it is likely that the teams it houses would not be as successful as they are today.
To read more about the history of the Tin Building, you can read the Historic Structure Report here.