Vol. 3 No. 2 | Jan. 11, 2006

 

Engineering, teaching and learning the drive behind sophisticated new building

Engineering at Northern Arizona University has taken a sophisticated step in teaching and research.

With the opening of the new Engineering building on Tuesday, students will step into a newly renovated structure with state-of-the-art electronics and room for research, student-faculty interaction and socializing.

"This wonderful new facility provides an environment for learning in engineering that matches the quality of the instructional program," said Laura Huenneke, dean of the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences. "Having cutting-edge labs and technology is crucial to providing the kinds of student experiences needed to prepare for technical careers, and now we have that capacity."

Huenneke pointed out that the new building includes spaces that promote the close interaction of students and faculty outside the formal classroom. "It's something that adds to the professional preparation our students receive during their time here," she said.

The building has been constructed with the latest materials, plenty of outdoor lighting and a modern energy system that should earn it a Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

"We were working with an existing building, which made the project and the 'green' aspects that much more difficult," said Rich Bowen, interim vice president of Administration and Finance. "But the result is pretty remarkable."

The project added 20,000 square feet to the original 70,000 square feet. However, the building was virtually demolished down to the walls and floors. The front was even shorn off.

What visitors see are windows and more windows. Not only do the windows ensure increased natural lighting, they give passers-by the opportunity to see all the activity within the building.

"We wanted to show people that there's a lot going on inside," Bowen said. "Before, you may not have even known we were conducting class, but now you can see all kinds of activities and all the cool things we do."

Students will find that the new structure features wireless Internet access pretty much throughout. It also has many breakout areas on all floors with movable white boards where students can gather for collaborative work or socializing.

One highlight is the huge atrium that will feature 24-hour access to students and a kiosk with food, soft drinks and coffee.

The classrooms and labs will have the latest technology for teaching and research. Many of the labs are connected to classrooms, which will allow professors to teach and students to go directly from a lecture to conduct practical work.

"We're very excited by the prospect of having updated spaces and first-rate facilities in which to work and teach," Hunneke said. "And we are working hard to help ensure that the spaces are designed to promote collaboration, interdisciplinary connection, and student-faculty contact.

"For our faculty and staff, the engineering project represents the first of several major investments by the state in facilities for research and teaching in science and technology."

Although the building will open for classes Jan. 17, a formal dedication is scheduled for April 21 in conjunction with the dedication of the new College of Business Administration building.