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UW Breaks Ground on Engineering Education and Research Building

October 7, 2016
two men shaking hands as a woman speaks with them
Earl Tatman, left, one of the donors to UW’s Engineering Education and Research Building, speaks with UW President Laurie Nichols and College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Michael Pishko during today’s groundbreaking ceremony. (UW Photo)

The University of Wyoming broke ground Friday on the Engineering Education and Research Building, a new state-of-the-art engineering facility that fosters innovation and collaboration among students and faculty.

“The university has made real progress toward a Tier-1 College of Engineering and Applied Science, and I wholeheartedly support their efforts,” Gov. Matt Mead says. “This new building is key to achieving that status. UW will have a world-class learning environment for students and faculty.”

The approximately 100,000-square-foot Engineering Education and Research Building (EERB) is the most ambitious construction project in the university’s history at $105 million. The facility is part of UW’s Tier-1 Engineering Initiative.

A Tier-1 college is a nationally recognized institution of academic excellence and world-class research. It provides great opportunity for students to work with world-class faculty in nationally ranked programs and engage in cutting‐edge research and learning.

“The Engineering Education and Research Building is an important component of strategically advancing engineering at the University of Wyoming,” says UW President Laurie Nichols. “Aspiring to the highest levels of engineering excellence means attracting very good faculty and bright, motivated students, and conducting leading research that grows the economy and addresses needs within the state. I am so appreciative of the governor, the state Legislature and donors who invest in the university so we, in turn, can help create a bright future for Wyoming.”

The four-story EERB will include reconfigurable research laboratories, active-learning classrooms, an active-learning wet laboratory, a drilling and completions simulation laboratory, an advanced manufacturing laboratory, student project spaces, a student innovation center, a student entrepreneurship center, informal collaboration spaces and meeting rooms.

The facility is flexible, with space that can be re-programmed without major renovation. It is built for collaboration, with space designed to foster student interaction and to support collaborative research teams. It fosters innovation, with space that supports creative thinking and student entrepreneurship.

The facility will bring the sciences at all levels closer together. Its proximity to the Michael B. Enzi STEM Facility, the Department of Geology and Geophysics, and the Energy Innovation Center integrates engineering faculty, students and laboratories into undergraduate science education, the geosciences and the School of Energy Resources.

“The Engineering Education and Research Building is going to be a fantastic educational facility for our students,” says Michael Pishko, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. “It was designed with the specific goals of promoting innovation and creativity, themes central to the mission of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Tier-1 Engineering Initiative. We look forward to seeing new programs developed thanks to the capabilities of the building, and creating a transformational environment that is focused on student learning.”

The Tier-1 Engineering Initiative and the EERB were prompted by the work of the Wyoming Governor’s Energy, Engineering, STEM Integration Task Force. Mead created the task force in 2012 to address the Legislature’s charge “to lead the university toward a Tier-1 academic and research institution in areas of excellence appropriate for Wyoming.”

The goals of the Tier-1 Engineering Initiative are to elevate UW’s College of Engineering and Applied Science to national prominence in undergraduate and graduate education and in select areas of research, and to significantly enhance economic development in Wyoming.

To this end, the initiative’s implementation plan focuses on the strategic goals of excellence in undergraduate education, world-class research and graduate education, productive economic development through partnerships, and K-14 STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math).

man speaking into microphone

Gov. Matt Mead speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Engineering Education and Research Building. (UW Photo)

-- Excellence in undergraduate education. The College of Engineering and Applied Science has solid educational programs that produce talented graduates who are in demand by employers. This goal is to enhance these programs and expand regional recognition into a national reputation.

-- World-class research and graduate education. Research leading to discovery and innovation often happens at the interface between different disciplines -- where ideas and talents intersect to solve pressing problems. This goal seeks to build world-class interdisciplinary research capabilities in selected areas that will have significant impacts on Wyoming and the nation, and to enrich student mentoring.

-- Productive economic development through partnerships. This goal promotes discovery and innovation, and seeks productive partnerships with the state, national agencies and industry to actualize research findings and catalyze economic development in Wyoming.

-- K-14 STEM education. Strength in K-14 education enhances the quality and quantity of students who pursue STEM programs at UW and ultimately pursue high-impact careers in the state. This goal introduces STEM concepts early in the K-12 educational experience and will enrich the STEM skills of UW’s freshmen and sophomore students to improve performance and retention.

Private support has surpassed the initial $5 million goal, but fundraising continues with naming opportunities within the facility. Wapiti Energy founder Dick Agee and Snaptron founder Earl Tatman provided lead gifts, with retired Baker Hughes Chairman and CEO Chad Deaton and Precision Drilling founder Hank Swartout supporting the project with major gifts. Energy company Encana’s previous gift for a professional oil and gas industry data room goes toward equipping the facility.

Progress already has been made toward achieving the goals of the initiative. Enrollment in the college has increased 15.8 percent over the last two academic years. A full-time K-14 coordinator was hired to manage all K-12 and community college engagement activities, and a full-time engineering career services coordinator was hired to help students find internship and career opportunities.

The Engineering Scholars Program has an average ACT score of 33, with 93 percent retention. Engineering summer programs for students, teachers and counselors have been implemented. Articulation agreements with community colleges have been strengthened.

Thirty-one percent of UW’s recent engineering graduates have completed undergraduate research. Eleven percent of recent graduates participated in international experiences. Sixty-four percent of recent graduates reported starting salaries greater than $50,000, with 43 percent reporting starting salaries greater than $60,000.

The college offers two job fairs each year, with 55-75 companies looking to hire UW students and graduates for internships and full-time jobs. Not only that, but the college’s students and alumni consistently pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam at a rate of 5-12 percent higher than the national average.

Speakers at the groundbreaking included the governor; Nichols; Tom Botts, co-chair of the Wyoming Governor’s Energy, Engineering, STEM Integration Task Force; and Pishko.

This new engineering facility is located on the north end of the UW campus near 11th and Lewis streets, across Lewis from the existing Engineering Building. It is expected to be completed in spring/summer of 2019.

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