Spotlight Projects

  • Chilled at Chalmers

    May 21, 2020

    Facilities & Services has continued to perform essential work through the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


    Recently, a team from F&S collaborated with the Mutimodal Corridor Enhancement (MCORE) Project crews to complete two infrastructure improvements at the same time.

    F&S Utilities Distribution recently performed this quick response chilled water piping project on Chalmers Street between Sixth Street and Wright Street. When MCORE Project 4 planned to replace the street surface and sidewalks in this area, it was identified that the 14” underground chilled water supply and return piping beneath this area had recently failed a “hydro” test, a controlled way to discover what is in need of repair. This work would include 200-foot lengths of 14” chilled water supply and return piping (400 total feet). Addressing the issue now would help to steward university resources by eliminating the need to tear out and redo the recently done street and sidewalks in the future  

    Management Engineer, Robbie Bauer, quickly coordinated with F&S Transportation Demand Coordinator, Stacey DeLorenzo and MCORE Project Manager Lou Braghini. A project schedule accounted for time to perform the chilled water piping work without adversely impacting the MCORE Project timeline. This process even required a formal executive approval to classify this project as essential.

    In a less than one-month time period, the project was identified, planned, scheduled, authorized, and constructed.

  • UI Ride Buses Bring Wi-Fi to Local Neighborhoods in Need

    Apr 23, 2020

    The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives.

    For most families with school-aged children it meant a rapid transition to remote/eLearning and the need for enhanced internet access, but this resource isn’t always readily available.

    In Champaign-Urbana, the university was able to help fill this gap when the UI Ride shuttle service between the Urbana and Chicago campuses was temporarily suspended due to the virus outbreak. Realizing the Wi-Fi-enabled vehicles were available to provide a new service during this period, F&S partnered with Technology Services and the University of Illinois System to take UI Ride vehicle to neighborhoods in need of internet access; the free service will run through at least May 1 (EDIT: through at least May 29).Mohamed_Pete_Denver_Ryan

    Once in a neighborhood, the vehicles park in highly visible spots. Community members can easily connect to the university’s mobile network by coming within 60-foot of the shuttle. This large Wi-Fi zone allows people to remain in nearby cars or to set up in adjacent spaces, so they can access the network while still obeying social distancing techniques to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

    Said Pete Varney, associate director of Operations, Maintenance & Alterations, Transportation & Automotive Services, “We are committed to supporting our entire community as we navigate through these extraordinary times. If this effort to provide free, reliable, and secure internet helps children and their parents, it will be worth it.”

    The shuttle locations focuses on areas identified by Champaign Unit 4 School District, Urbana School District #116, and community organizations, where digital access may be unavailable or limited for students needing to complete e-learning coursework. The service also provides greater opportunities for families to perform essential online activities as necessary.

    Presently, the vehicles go to Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park, Douglas Community Center, Ivanhoe Estates, Northwood Estates, and Woodland Acres.

     “I am thankful that both the university and F&S have a strong desire to help the community,” said Brad Trankina, director of Information Technology Services. “This project went from an idea to a service actively helping the community in less than a week, thanks to many across the university joining the effort.”

    Please refer to the updated shuttle schedule here for current locations and times:

  • Shops aid amphibian display

    Aug 06, 2019


    F&S crafts and trades services help handle thousands of projects each year across the Urbana campus, but this one is older and rarer than usual: the plaster cast of a 300-million-year old amphibian species called eryops.

    The installation of the eryops at the Natural History Building required the capabilities of multiple F&S shops: the painters, mill workers, ironworkers, and machinists. Painters worked on the surrounding gallery walls, while the mill workers designed and built custom wooden exhibit furniture and casework, and the ironworkers designed mounting solutions and assisted with the moving of large and heavy display artifacts. The machinists made adjustable mounts designed to brace various points of the plaster creature. 

    “Our shop does such a wide variety of things here at the university that we come to expect this sort of thing,” said Stuart De Haro, machinists foreman. De Haro oversaw a team of Jerry Donaldson, Rocky Atwood, Chris McCoy to help make new easily adjustable supports for the skull and spine of the eryops. “One day we might be rebuilding a pump, the next we could be on a roof, the next we might be making lab equipment. It is different every day, and that’s how we like it. It was a fun project and one that I talk about often now when people ask about the type of work we do here in the machine shop.”

    Mill shop foreman Andy Burnett assigned the work to millworker Scott Schmidt, who helped make the custom wood display case.

    “Honestly, this is the type of work we do a lot of,” said Burnett. “Custom display cases sized to fit different objects or certificates are what we do. We have done displays for Olympic medals, Illini baseball memorabilia, rare books, and numerous sports trophy cases, to name a few.”

    Ironworker Ron Cler acknowledged the attention to detailed needed in helping complete the project, adding, “It was a very interesting project! Extreme care had to be used. I was comfortable, maybe a little nervous, but not too bad. It was fun working on this project and it’s a good conversation topic to discuss at family gatherings.”

    Gavin Robinson, collections storage coordinator at Spurlock Museum of World Cultures said, “We advised F&S on ideal mounting methods for a plaster cast. Specifically, that it be easily adjustable and minimally visible. They were very responsive to our suggestions and critiques throughout the design process and also assisted with mount installation.

    “We have an excellent working relationship with the many talented F&S staff from various shops.