With renovation of the Butler-Carlton Civil Engineering Building now complete, the campus is directing its energy toward its next big project: turning the mechanical and aerospace engineering complex into a world-class teaching and research facility.
UMR Chancellor Gary Thomas says renovating the current ME/AE complex is the campus’ top priority. "We have seen what can be done when you put the best faculty and students into modern facilities elsewhere on campus," says Thomas, "and our mechanical and aerospace engineering students deserve nothing less."
The existing ME/AE complex saw its last major renovation in 1969 — the same year as the first Apollo moon landing. "The requirements have grown significantly," says Ashok Midha, chair of the mechanical and aerospace engineering department. "Today’s students are performing weightless experimental welding on the ‘vomit comet’ and conducting research on space shuttle tiles to enhance performance, so there is a tremendous need for new undergraduate instructional labs and classrooms equipped with new learning technologies, as well as for flexible, interdisciplinary research areas to adapt to future needs. The current space, for example, is not equipped to accommodate modern technologies such as lasers, virtual manufacturing or rapid prototyping."
The $24 million modernization calls for renovating the current 66,500-square-foot Mechanical Engineering Building as well as razing the outdated Mechanical Engineering Annex, constructed in 1902, and replacing it with a 73,000-square-foot modern structure that will house learning centers, laboratories, research and technical facilities.
At the heart of this modernization will be the Product Innovation & Creativity Center (PICC), where students will learn leadership, teamwork and communication while tackling real-world, hands-on projects. The center will house virtual reality and rapid prototyping laboratories, multimedia conferencing and presentation rooms, new computer-aided design and computer-aided engineering facilities, and other improvements.
"The PICC is central to the building, central to the culture we want to create," says Midha. "Companies will appreciate having students who can take on projects with the confidence and skills necessary to get the job done."