Davis College School of Engineering donors gift scaled railroad train test bed

March 21, 2024

Jacksonville University donors Jack and Lynn Barnett recently donated a scaled railroad train test bed to the School of Engineering in the Davis College of Business and Technology. 

This generous gift will be used in JU courses in mechatronics, mechanics and electronics to support engineering lectures and labs. The gift includes a scaled railroad test bed, comprised of a test bench with scaled railroad vehicles, a test track and a digital electric controller. 

“We’re profoundly grateful for Mr. and Mrs. Barnett’s donation to JU’s School of Engineering. It will enable us to continue our mission of fostering learning, growth and opportunity for our students and faculty,” said Dr. Emre Selvi, director of the School of Engineering.

Jack’s current health is such that he can’t participate in his hobby anymore. He has been a train enthusiast since he was a kid and remembers building sets with his dad in their garage. “It’s an absolute great hobby and has changed so much over the years. The train is more software than it is hardware and that’s the part I enjoyed,” he said.

The Fruit Cove couple wanted the train test bed to be beneficial in enhancing students’ learning experience.

“It made us feel better that it was going to be used for a good cause and not thrown away, sitting in a Goodwill store somewhere, but going to a good place to help others in gaining their knowledge of engineering,” said Lynn.

The Barnett’s charitable gift will help future engineers for generations to come. 

“This donation from Jack and Lynn Barnett will create an experimental testbed for teaching important engineering concepts in robotics and mechatronics,” said JU Associate Professor of Engineering Dr. Brian Kopp.

Kopp says that students can use the computer-controlled scaled railroad equipment to experiment with sensors and actuators, and even navigation techniques used to build robots and many other mechatronic devices. This sophisticated equipment may also create some research opportunities for JU in the rail transportation and green energy industries.

In a recent campus visit to see the train, housed in Nelms 5, Jack said it made him feel good that future generations were going to be able to benefit from the train set. He’s also glad he can still have access to it. “Now, I know I can pop in the door some day and say ‘Hey, I want to see the train!’”

Kopp, also a train enthusiast, hopes to start incorporating the use of the scale railroad train test bed in the engineering curriculum this coming fall. 

Lynn says she met Kopp on a whim at a local hobby store as she was trying to determine what to do with the train testbed as well as figure out its value, although her intention, she says, was never to sell the train.

She believes Kopp was a “Godsend” and that he was sent to her for a reason. 

“I was wondering how I was going to get the train apart, and then Brian comes along, disassembles the train and puts it back together again. It wasn’t a coincidence; it was meant to be. It was a win-win,” exclaimed Lynn.


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