The Michael B. Enzi STEM Building honeymoon period is running out, and faculty and students are judging how they’ll use the building for the coming decades. So far, it’s all smiles.
Many elementary education students take fundamentals of the physical universe, meant to give future teachers information and techniques for instructing children. A classroom/lab in the STEM Building hosts the students for a three-hour class.
The lab is segmented — large tables with the classic stone black tops fill one room; tables shopped into work stations sit in the adjoining room.
Both utilize state-of-the-art projector systems. The classroom portion also has a large flat screen television for each four-person workstation for about a dozen in total.
Each TV is connected to the projector — some students never even looked at the professor, following the presentation on their display.
Physics and astronomy assistant lecturer Jim Verley, the class’ instructor, is making full use of the new facility.
“Some of the rooms in the (Engineering Building) were just terrible,” he said. “The tables were 30 years old and the chairs were scavenged from just anywhere. These rooms offer many more opportunities.”
This lab setup is a standard for the three different department floors. The Physics and Astronomy Department dominates most of the first floor-rooms, with life sciences on the second and chemistry on the third. Some lab courses won’t be fully moved into the new building until fall, so some labs are still under utilized.
A new studio room is a key feature of the STEM facility, supporting a large-scale active learning environment.
Equipment for experiments line the room and tables long enough to support demonstrations fill the remaining space. Whiteboards and projectors hang from nearly every available piece of wall.
“You can teach for 20 minutes, then switch over and demonstrate exactly how it works before continuing,” said Travis Laurance, physics and astronomy lab coordinator said.
While the classroom and lab are impressive, some smaller touches also make the building a great addition to campus.
Mechanical engineer major Corissa Guynes spends plenty of time in the STEM Building — two of her courses are hosted in the many labs. But even when not in class, the facility is a great place to study and get work done, she said.
“The atrium is gorgeous — there’s so much space and light,” she said. “You can sit in the main area or go to one of the study rooms.”
Moving from the dull labs of the Engineering Building was an unexpected gift, Guynes said.
“It’s a really nice surprise,” she said. “The labs are great — they have TVs everywhere and white boards on every side of the room so you can see from anywhere.”
The lobby is one of the building’s best features, Verley said.
“This lobby where students can interact is new to us — that’s a true advantage,” he said. “It can get the students to get out there, mingle and work together.”
The chemistry labs also integrates safety in addition to better technology, said Carla Beckett, chemistry associate lecturer and lab coordinator.
“We can have two students per hood,” she said. “Before, we had four students to a hood. We’re much safer now.”
Finally, something as simple as sunlight makes a world of difference, Beckett said.
“It is the light, the windows, the visibility that makes this building so awesome,” she said. “I think it will inspire the students to stay in lab longer and even have students enroll in the sciences just to use the new building.”