New engineering building is ready for students

December 28, 2016 / by / 0 Comment
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The new engineering building at the Grand Canyon University campus entrance on Camelback Road opens in January. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

The L-shaped engineering building at the Grand Canyon University campus entrance on Camelback Road opens in January. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the December issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.

By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

Sprawled out in chairs in Grand Canyon University’s newly expanded Lopes Lab, a group of students jotted ideas on a floor-to-ceiling whiteboard with red and blue markers as they brainstormed intently.

Across the lab, Brock Nelson, a senior Entrepreneurial Studies major, peered table-level at his skateboard as he carefully fitted it with Legos, pipe cleaners and clay. His goal, he said, is to build a model for a skateboard lock.

“If he attaches the (wheel assembly) truck and the board together, they can’t be taken apart,” said Ben Encinas, engineering lab coordinator.

Though at different stages of the creative process, Nelson and the brainstorming bunch were taking steps toward a similar goal: making products that solve problems and can be engineered on campus.

With the much anticipated opening of GCU’s new engineering wing, models like Nelson’s can be transformed into larger-scale prototypes in engineering machine shops and labs.

After years of planning and construction, the College of Science, Engineering and Technology is prepared to officially unveil the engineering wing of Building 1, adding an important piece to the academic environment of the campus. The east-west section of the enormous L-shaped building will welcome students in January for the start of spring semester.

“We are championing a very intensive, hands-on experience with new shops and labs that correspond to our teaching technique,” said CSET Associate Dean Dr. Michael Sheller, the head of GCU’s two-year-old engineering program.

He is also on the team of faculty, staff, industry, architect and laboratory consultants who helped develop and nurture the new engineering building from concept to reality.

The four-story, 170,000-square-foot structure is a giant, not only in sheer size but also in the cutting-edge nature of the sophisticated shops and labs in which engineering majors and others can apply their learning and create products as massive and complex as they can imagine.

The engineering building is integral to GCU’s goal to rise as an Arizona mecca for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), a University whose top-notch faculty prepare highly trained students to help fill a void in STEM jobs and attract more top-tier businesses to the state.

“It will be exciting to see the labs and the machine shops come alive,” CSET Dean Mark Wooden said. “It’s also exciting that our engineering students are at the phase that they are taking lab courses.”

Thriving Lopes Lab

Formerly part of the Colangelo College of Business (CCOB), the Lopes Lab has been integrated into the engineering department while maintaining its entrepreneurial core. It’s a place where students collaborate, tinker with ideas and create concept models.

It’s bigger and better and in a new location on the first floor of Building 1’s north-south wing. Designed by and for GCU students, the “makerspace lab,” as it is called, has projectors and a large Makerbot 3-D printer as well as CNC/Laser cutting and etching, programming, and electronic component creation.

“It’s given us freedom to expand our capabilities,” said Christian Clifton, a Lopes Lab student worker who spends hours in the lab and whose enthusiasm is contagious.

He spoke glowingly of the Team Innovation Experience, co-taught by engineering and CCOB. Students create concept models and prototypes in labs while learning about business in lectures, he said.

The engineering shops — one of the highlights of the shiny new space — will be finished before January. They are located on the natural-light bathed first floor, which has soaring ceilings and hallway windows that allow passersby to peek inside.

Wooden welcomes the wing’s spaciousness. It will add 33 more offices and meeting places, which will come in handy for the 15 additional CSET faculty and staff that were hired this year to accommodate the college’s increasing popularity.

Seven of the new employees were hired for the engineering program, including Cheryl Kooijmans, who came aboard in April to fill the newly created position of engineering program manager.

One of Sheller’s favorite features is a fourth-floor gallery/student hangout created in collaboration with the College of Fine Arts and Production. Large monitors will display student art and design work, mobiles will hang from the ceiling and paintings on the walls. Add to this lounge furniture and piped-in music.

How innovative are the new facilities? Compared with engineering programs at other teaching universities, Sheller believes that GCU’s stands out, and the new wing is one reason why. “It will put us in the top tier,” he said.

It’s bigger and better and in a new location on the first floor of Building 1’s north-south wing. Designed by and for GCU students, the “makerspace lab,” as it is called, has projectors and a large Makerbot 3-D printer as well as CNC/Laser cutting and etching, programming, and electronic component creation.

“It’s given us freedom to expand our capabilities,” said Christian Clifton, a Lopes Lab student worker who spends hours in the lab and whose enthusiasm is contagious.

He spoke glowingly of the Team Innovation Experience, co-taught by engineering and CCOB. Students create concept models and prototypes in labs while learning about business in lectures, he said.

The engineering shops — one of the highlights of the shiny new space — will be finished before January. They are located on the natural-light bathed first floor, which has soaring ceilings and hallway windows that allow passersby to peek inside.

Wooden welcomes the wing’s spaciousness. It will add 33 more offices and meeting places, which will come in handy for the 15 additional CSET faculty and staff that were hired this year to accommodate the college’s increasing popularity.

Seven of the new employees were hired for the engineering program, including Cheryl Kooijmans, who came aboard in April to fill the newly created position of engineering program manager.

One of Sheller’s favorite features is a fourth-floor gallery/student hangout created in collaboration with the College of Fine Arts and Production. Large monitors will display student art and design work, mobiles will hang from the ceiling and paintings on the walls. Add to this lounge furniture and piped-in music.

How innovative are the new facilities? Compared with engineering programs at other teaching universities, Sheller believes that GCU’s stands out, and the new wing is one reason why. “It will put us in the top tier,” he said.

Lopes Lab highlights:

  • An engineering materials lab on the second floor is equipped with an atomic force microscope, which can chart the surface of a silicon wafer.
  • An engineering power lab will allow students to experiment with generating and distributing electricity to GCU. As part of this, solar panels will be connected and installed on the lawn outside, Sheller said.
  • A physics electromagnetic lab will feature an antenna and involve transmitting signals with waves containing magnetic fields.

Engineering shop highlights:

  • Sheet metal working, with a machining center, milling machine, lathe, plasma cutter and 3D printer.
  • Woodworking shop, with saws, drills and hand tools.
  • Finishing shop, with paint booth, sand blaster and hand tools.

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639- 6511 or  laurie.merrill@gcu.edu.


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