Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Engineering Faculty and Students Impacting Change for the Better

Monica Alarcon


Sarika Singhal ( junior, Mechanical Engineering) & Dr. Lauren Cooper (Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering Department) from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo . 


​​​​​​​​Dr. Lauren Cooper (Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering Department) of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was recently on a zoom call with her student, Sarika Singhal (junior, Mechanical Engineering), discussing the post George Floyd climate we are living in. They both were pleased that the College of Engineering had sent out a statement of solidarity related to the deaths of both George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. As they began discussing the topic further, they wanted to explore ways in which they could make a difference at the university.

Their conversation turned to discussing the "master/slave" terminology in the Fusion 360 software. They both were troubled by the terminology. Dr. Cooper stated that “months ago she had noticed this terminology and admitted being disturbed by it but embarrassingly brushed it aside." She felt like there was nothing she could do to change a giant company.

However, after hearing her student express her own concern regarding the “master/slave" terminology, she was inspired to act on it.  Dr. Cooper wrote an email to Fusion 360 expressing her concerns over the “master/slave" terminology within their software.

In her email she wrote “This quarter, when completing one of our Fusion 360 labs, students and I were troubled by the use of "master/slave" terminology in the software. Specifically, we noticed it when you assign two gears to mate - you must assign one as the "master" and one as the "slave." It was troublesome to many of us when we encountered it in the software, but now I have students who are really fired up about trying to get this language removed given what's going on in Minnesota and around the country. I think this "master/slave" language is also in SolidWorks, and students will be looking into that as well. Python changed its "master/slave" terminology back in 2018, and the students are really wanting to see this terminology removed from software packages like Fusion 360 that they use daily and will likely use far into the future."

Within a few hours she received a response from Fusion 360 stating that they were thankful she raised the issue with them and that they had escalated the issue to the General Manager of Fusion 360. They were embarrassed that this issue had to be raised to them but that they were committed to changing the terminology.

This was great news for Dr. Cooper. She was very happy that she had not “ignored" this issue again. Within 12 hours of her first email she received another email from Fusion 360. They stated that Autodesk had decided to make the change in Fusion and all of Autodesk products, in all languages. In addition, Fusion 360 stated that every product and design leader across the company would be actively engaged in identifying and replacing these words. They wanted to change the terminology in their help content, support materials and training content.

Fusion 360 went on to thank Dr. Cooper and her students for bringing this issue to their attention. They expressed great gratitude in working with Cal Poly and emphasized that their partnership was valued.

Dr. Cooper and Sarika are driving change that will impact millions of education and commercial users of Autodesk's products globally. In addition, they are inspiring others to speak up as they did and are strengthening their networks to become agents of positive change.

Dr. Cooper has since inspired other faculty in the Mechanical Engineering Department to also voice their concerns over the “master/slave" terminology in other software such as SOLIDWORKS. As a result, SOLIDWORKS is also looking into changing the language.

Sarika is incredibly excited about the change that software companies are making. She stated that she wants to be a better ally to the Black Lives Matter movement and has since reached out to Amman F. Asfaw​. Amman is a senior in Electrical Engineer Senior at the university and the Chapter President of the National Society of Black Engineers. Amman is coincidently already doing research on the issue of the “master/slave" terminology within other software. His abstract is titled Abstract “Assessing the Effects of Master-Slave Terminology on Inclusivity in Engineering Education".  

CSU STEM faculty and students understand the critical moment we are in as a society. Together they are impacting real-time change for a more equal and just world for all.