When Katie Arnold needed solder for an engineering project she didn’t need to travel far to get it.
The fourth-year mechanical engineering student stopped by RidgidWare, an electronic components and hardware shop conveniently located across from the C&D and beside the Engineering Ideas Clinic in Engineering 7.
Not only did Arnold not have to leave campus – the closest place that sells comparable products and tools is in Cambridge – she spent less than what solder would cost either online or in a regular bricks and mortar store.
Operated by Waterloo’s Engineering Society (EngSoc), RidgidWare offers everything from nuts and bolts to digital calipers, safety goggles, LEDs and sandpaper – available in 80, 120 and 240 grit.
“The idea behind RidgidWare is to bring hardware and electronics components to campus in an environment where students can browse and shop for their project needs,” says Arnold, currently EngSoc’s mechanical engineering 2020 Class representative and a past EngSoc president.
It was two former mechatronics engineering students Ali Amin and Joe Kinsella who came up with the idea for RidgidWare and pitched it to EngSoc’s vice president of finance in 2014.
“They wanted somewhere they could go to buy a component quickly if they needed to replace something that had broken and was needed for a project,” recalls Mary Bland, business manager for EngSoc.
It was initial funding of $5,000 from Engineering Dean Pearl Sullivan that helped launch the original RidgidWare in Carl Pollack Hall (CPH)
Office space – it was more like a cubby hole, says Bland – was created for RidgidWare in a small section of the C&D stockroom with some shelving added to it.
In October 2014, RidgidWare opened for business two days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. An EngSoc service, it was staffed by volunteers at the time.
Cramped for room from the beginning, RidgidWare moved to its new home in Engineering 7 earlier this year. Along with a bigger, more visible space and a much larger inventory, the store has extended its hours and is now open to anyone across campus from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Six paid employees, all engineering students, run the store.
New tool lending program
Through a new partnership with the Sedra Student Design Centre, RidgidWare now offers a multi-day tool lending program free of charge.
“They’re tools that a student wouldn’t necessarily want to buy, but can certainly use,” says Peter Teertstra, director of Student Design Centre and a mechanical and mechatronics engineering professor. “We’re finding users are Capstone students, students who are working on personal projects, and student teams who don’t have a certain tool in their bay.”
In order to borrow tools, students must first complete the Engineering Student Machine Shop’s safety training. The training focuses on using equipment safely and avoiding potentially dangerous situations.
The larger store has allowed for an expanded inventory and lower prices through the purchasing power the University's Print + Retail Solutions, also a new partner with RidgidWare. Engineering departments that previously sold project components directly to students are now working with RidgidWare to provide the same service.
“Departments come to RidgidWare and say this is what we need for our students this term,” says Teertstra. “When students come in to purchase supplies they see what else is available and this is only going to grow the business more.”
Arnold, who is one of RidgidWare’s employees, has become an expert on what the store provides.
“Part of the original idea was to have students be able to offer advice to other students, especially the younger ones who might be working on their first project,” says Arnold. “It’s part of RidgidWare’s mandate to provide that expertise.”
Bland says that with RidgidWare’s extended hours and new location the store’s services are “100 per cent better.”
“Its Engineering 7 location makes it much more visible,” she says. “Even if students are just walking by they can see that it’s open and spread the word to classmates and friends.”