A new design studio opens on the lower level of the Wilbur Powerhouse in January 2023. The studio is a fully equipped design hub for circuit prototyping, testing and printed circuit board fabrication. (Blair Dickinson/B&W Staff)

New electronic design studio sparks innovation in Wilbur Powerhouse


The ability to create physical circuits or circuit board technology can enhance some Lehigh students’ academic experience. Now, the new Electronics Design Studio in Wilbur Powerhouse grants them the power to do so. 

Lehigh Design Labs opened the studio’s doors in January. It is equipped with a variety of tools that allow students to create electrical components for learning. 

Steve DeWeerth, dean of P.C. Rossin College of Engineering, said the Electronic Design Studio was proposed two years ago following discussions about how its construction would be funded.

Donations from Mitch Herbets and Jay Teich, members of the Electrical and Computer Engineering External Advisory Council, allowed the idea to become a reality. 

“(The studio) makes the impossible possible,” Design Labs director Brian Slocum said. 

He said Lehigh has had the resources to create and build physical items in other Design Lab facilities, but now students are easily able to incorporate electrical components into their projects.

Before the studio opened, Slocum said students often had to find electric materials from outside sources like Amazon.

Slocum said one of his favorite parts of the lab’s development was hiring Kelly Zona, manager of Wilbur Powerhouse, in December 2022. 

“She is a true maker with an extensive background in electronics,” Slocum said. 

Before arriving at Lehigh, Zona worked for a consulting company where she helped set up maker spaces throughout the world. 

Growing up in the Bethlehem area, Zona said she has always known Lehigh as a respected institution. 

“I have been impressed with the level of professionalism and ingenuity in the student projects,” Zona said. “I never cease to be amazed by (Lehigh students).”

A team of students with Lehigh’s Space Initiative club have been working in the studio on a Mars Rover for the University Rover Challenge in Utah. 

Hannah Peik, ‘26, is a member of the rover team. She said they have been working on the project since August, and the addition of the studio provided them with all the necessary tools to complete the wiring for the rover. 

“The majority of the last month of our work was spent (in the Electronic Design Studio),” Peik said. “Anything we needed to fix, we had the tools inside that lab.” 

While the space mainly benefits students in engineering or design programs, Scolum and Zona said they want the Lehigh community to know the design lab welcomes students of all disciplines, regardless of prior experience. 

Slocum said there are three routes to use the studio’s resources. Students can stop by the studio with a project idea, and if possible, Zona and student staff members will help make their ideas come to life. Alternatively, they can access the lab through Lehigh classes.

“We are always working with faculty to bring the Design Lab’s resources into the classroom,” Slocum said. 

As their last option, students can participate in Wilbur Powerhouse workshops LearnX and MakeX. Here they can learn skills in the different labs, such as soldering or fabricating circuit boards.

The idea of an Electronic Design Studio has been on DeWeerth’s mind since he arrived at Lehigh in 2016. He said it was time for Lehigh to pay more attention to electronic components of design due to “an absence of anything focused on electronics.”

Scolum said he hopes spaces like the Electronics Design Studio will aid students across all colleges and majors in exploring new ideas.

“In the same way the library is accessible to everybody, the design labs fall into that same category,” Slocum said. The design labs are here for everyone.”

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