Skip to main content

Senior can't stop engineering, even in her off hours

Faculty relationships and hands-on opportunities helped send senior on to prestigious graduate school

Janel Shoun-Smith  | 

Heinrich in machine shop

“From the big projects to the little projects, whatever is in your head, you can bring it to life. That’s what is unique about (the machine shop).," said Lauren Heinrich, a senior headed to Georgia Tech for graduate school.

Lauren Heinrich (’20), a senior mechanical engineering major headed for Georgia Institute of Technology after graduation, has kept plenty busy during her time at Lipscomb with demanding classes and Lipscomb’s Baja SAE all-terrain vehicle team, exoskeleton team and internships at Jacobs and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.

And then, on top of that, this motivated student also pursued her own personal engineering projects, including a working four-cylinder, Bourke Air Motor, which she showed off to Lipscomb alumni this past fall.

As a freshman, one day in Lipscomb’s machine shop, Heinrich told Lipscomb’s resident machinist Mark Chandler, “I would like to learn something new.” She was interested in learning the fundamentals of machining, which she knew were the keys to unlocking innovation.

His response was to sketch out a scotch yoke and share the history of the Bourke Air Motor. Taking that sketch, she began designing the motor in SolidWorks, a computer aided design software (CAD), and would consult with the engineering professors and Chandler about design challenges which came up throughout the process, all in her spare time.

Two years later, in August of 2018, after making and fixing mistakes and redesigning, Heinrich completed the Bourke motor. In order to make it portable, she completed the system with an opposing piston compressor and power supply. All of the systems were made up of more than 1,000 individual parts.

“Lauren has a work ethic and a drive that says she'll get it done and it doesn't matter what ‘it’ is,” said Chandler. “Combine that with her wide-eyed excitement and love for learning and you've got an amazing young woman with seemingly endless potential who is an absolute joy to work with.”

Heinrich was interested in building the motor to “investigate the process of designing, prototyping and manufacturing a complex system, while also learning how to manually machine and CNC (Computer Numeric Controlled) machine components.”

This past fall, she was asked to present her fully completed demonstration motor, an example of a unique student accomplishment, at a Lipscomb alumni event in Huntsville, Alabama.

“The entire system was designed as a learning and demonstration system once completed” she said. “The clear plastic and aluminum components were chosen to allow the entire system to be seen while it functions and to prevent corrosion throughout its lifespan.”

Heinrich, from Hendersonville, Tennessee, was raised by a mother who helped her overcome dyslexia in elementary school and a father, also a mechanical engineer, who was proactive in showing her how to build and repair things around the home.

“I would watch Dad as he repaired the car whether it was changing the oil or replacing a water pump,” she said. “At three my Mom caught me taking the wall plates off the electrical outlets. When I was five, I took scrap wood and made carts out of wood and caster wheels.”

As she grew, her mother and father encouraged her mechanical abilities. Since she already knew how to weld, thanks to her classmate’s grandfather who owned a steel fabrication company, she was accepted into Lipscomb’s Advanced Robotics Summer Camp with the help of a letter from her mother even though she didn’t yet meet the age requirements.

There she was first introduced to Lipscomb engineering and some of the faculty including Chandler. Because of her positive experience at the camp, she was very interested in attending Lipscomb University for college.

Equipped with more knowledge from robotics camp, she went back to her middle school, Merrol Hyde Magnet School, and helped lead the school’s robotics team to wins at the Music City BEST Robotics Competition, held at Lipscomb, and at the Regional BEST Robotics Competition at Auburn University her junior and senior year.

“My involvement on the robotics team and competition taught me leadership, and it taught mechanical concepts to help prepare me for college,” she said.

Studying at the Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering was not easy, Heinrich says, but her mentoring relationships with the faculty helped her get through the rough spots. The small student-to-teacher ratio allows faculty time to help students with homework and other engineering applications which might be difficult to get started, she said. The faculty were always willing to give advice during such a formative time in her life.

Throughout her college years, Heinrich frequented the machine shop, not just for school projects, but also for other personal projects besides the Bourke motor. She restored a 1976 John Deere lawnmower with the help of the shop equipment. A project she described as “elegant” was a solid brass Wonder Woman tiara, designed through CAD. Stylish and great for Halloween, she said.

“Mark’s patient mentoring was key throughout my projects. My appreciation for machining grew through the completion of the many projects I was a part of. I learned that mistakes were just experiences to developing the design,” said Heinrich.

“From the big projects to the little projects, whatever is in your head, you can bring it to life. That’s what is unique about (the machine shop). Upstairs (in the classrooms) you learn how to run the numbers on paper and in CAD. Down here you learn how to bring it to life and you can hold it in your hand,” she said.

As an experienced welder, Heinrich quickly found a position on Lipscomb’s Baja SAE competition team, which manufactures an ATV in single school year, d as the lead welder. Throughout her time on the team, she learned valuable design and manufacturing skills and continued to improve her welding skills. She eventually became lead engineer.

For her senior project she is a member of the exoskeleton team, a first-time group planning to compete this May at the Michigan State University competition.

Motor Heinrich

Heinrich presented her Bourke demonstration motor at a Lipscomb alumni event last fall

Through Joseph Tipton, Lipscomb’s chair of mechanical engineering, Heinrich became aware of engineering internships available through Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She then secured an internship at the Oak Ridge Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, part of the ORNL and the Department of Energy’s only designated user facility focused on early-stage research and development to improve the efficiency of American manufacturers. 

There she was eager to learn to use a hybrid CNC machine and welder and was excited to make contacts regarding Georgia Tech graduate school opportunities.

Heinrich hopes to attain a master’s and a Ph.D. in manufacturing at the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech and perhaps continue work at the Oak Ridge Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.

“Lipscomb has been a great educational family,” she said. “I can go anywhere on the third floor (where faculty offices are located) and ask anyone questions. I can go up to (faculty outside my major) and they’ll know me by name and answer my questions. I’m so glad I came here.

“Whether you meet Ms. Jyane, the college’s housekeeper, or Dean (David) Elrod in the hallway, you will be greeted with an uplifting smile and an encouraging conversation. It is a great place to earn an engineering education."