New gift supports development of a central design studio for first year engineering students 

A group photo of six smiling people standing outside a building in daylight.

From left: Danielle Sobot, McMaster President David Farrar, Dean of Engineering Heather Sheardown, Vladimir Sobot, Senka Sobot and Chedo Sobot at the president’s thank you dinner in Hamilton. (Photo by Georgia Kirkos, McMaster University)

McMaster graduates and brothers Vladimir Sobot, BEng ’80, and Chedo Sobot, BEng Mgt ’85, have given $500,000 to the Faculty of Engineering to initiate the development of a central design studio aimed at encouraging collaboration and experiential learning among first-year students.

The Design Projects Studio will be the future home base for students in the foundational Integrated Cornerstone Design Projects in Engineering (1P13) course, which requires learners to work in teams to complete four design projects over the year.

In the studio’s 5,000 square feet of custom space, students, faculty and industry partners can come together to develop, test, refine and re-test innovative solutions for a wide range of problems — for example, creating wind turbine blades, programming robotic arms that sort trash, 3-D modelling, and coding a bin that stores surgical tools.

“The purpose of first-year programming is to get students to recognize there are different ways of approaching problems,” said associate professor Colin McDonald, who teaches the first-year ENG 1P13 course, and whose students will benefit most from the hands-on nature of this studio.

“The new studio will be designed to allow students to flex their creativity and push their boundaries.”

Located in the heart of the John Hodgins Engineering Building, the Design Projects Studio will be a combined classroom, meeting room and prototyping shop, equipped with the latest designing and machining technology.

The space was previously occupied by the McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute before it relocated to McMaster Innovation Park in 2023.

“We were excited at the prospect of bringing new life to this space so that McMaster can provide engineering students with a more robust learning environment in their first year,” said Chedo Sobot, who, along with Vladimir, owns Sobotec Ltd., a Hamilton-based engineering and manufacturing firm that specializes in the design, manufacture and installation of cladding systems for building exteriors.

“There are new approaches and methodologies in teaching and learning today, and McMaster Engineering is providing the tools necessary to prepare the next generation of engineers in the workplace.”

For more than 35 years, Sobotec has hired McMaster students for co-op terms and provided full-time employment to graduates, while the Sobots themselves have remained engaged with the university in a variety of ways, including offering their mentorship.

“This gift represents our commitment to the engineering community and to the next generation of hands-on, forward-thinking engineers,” said Vladimir Sobot.

“We are truly grateful for this contribution,” said McMaster President David Farrar.

“By giving students optimal spaces to come together and innovate, we are fostering the next generation of engineering and technology talent who will build a more secure, equitable and sustainable future.”

Over the past five years, McMaster’s Faculty of Engineering has been transitioning from traditional classrooms and lecture halls to a more holistic, experiential way of learning. From its new project-based first-year curriculum to countless clubs, teams, co-op and entrepreneurship opportunities, real-world experiences are now integrated into every facet of the student journey.

“We are transforming the student experience both inside and outside the classroom so our students can graduate with a comprehensive set of skills that will put them in high demand as they enter the workforce,” said Engineering Dean Heather Sheardown.

“This important contribution from the Sobot family is the first in supporting this specific initiative, and it supports our vision as a whole.”