Visionary planning by university leaders at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus has resulted in ghd creation of what will be the first STEM Education Center in Central and Northern Arizona.
STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – academic disciplines for which employers worldwide are seeking qualified employees.
ERAU Chancellor Frank Ayers says construction plans are being finalized, the project will be going out for bid soon and ground breaking for the multi-million dollar academic facility is expected in mid-summer.
“We hope to dedicate the STEM Center before the Spring 2017 semester,” Ayers said.
In March, Ayers addressed an audience of middle school and high school teachers and administrators throughout the Quad Cities area about the plan and his hopes for the STEM Education Center to be a place “where young people can be introduced to the sciences and other disciplines in an exciting, stimulating educational environment.”
Ayers said he and other university personnel envision the STEM Education Center not as an educational facility exclusively for ERAU students, but rather, as a site where middle and high school students can pursue their interests in economically vital disciplines.
Local Education Leaders Endorse STEM Project
Several Quad Cities administrative leaders applauded the announcement that students from throughout Arizona would be eagerly welcomed to the ERAU facility.
“This will be a great opportunity for students and staff to get hands-on experiences,” said Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Paul Stanton. “What’s more, it’s accessible and affordable.”
Stanton’s thoughts were echoed by Joe Howard, incoming superintendent for the Prescott Unified School District. “An opportunity like this one will prepare students to enter the workforce with more than just a smattering of STEM proficiency. It will be-eye-opening and encourage them to pursue further STEM options.”
Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter was effusive in his praise. “This kind of educational opportunity is exceptional – and it is absolutely needed. Now, students from smaller schools and school districts that do not have the resources for STEM education have a chance to learn from experienced personnel at a world-class university right here in Prescott.”
Costs for the two-story 51,500-square-foot building are estimated to be near $18 million, according to David Hall, ERAU chief business officer.
Construction of the steel, concrete, stucco and glass facility is expected to take from 15 to 18 months. It is being designed by Leo A. Daly, an internationally renowned firm that is considered to be one of the nation’s top architectural establishments.
Hall says the bid process would follow established bidding protocols. “Our preference, of course, is to keep everything as local as we can – purchasing, labor and so on.”
He emphasizes that the construction project will inject a substantial amount of money into the community.
Building to Contain Expansive Science and Technological Classrooms, Laboratories
The contemporary structure will contain two large classrooms, 17 laboratories, Space Grant-NASA rooms, high-speed computation/simulation dedicated space, faculty offices, adjunct offices, a conference-break room and a large lobby.
Many of the labs will be dedicated to specific scientific and technological applications, such as:
- Cosmic Ray Lab – designed to deepen understanding of how cosmic rays affect not only Earth but also deep space environments.
- The LIGO Optics Lab – for the search of gravitational waves and the study of black holes in space.
- Robotics Lab – a state-of-the-art facility to support course work and research in stationary, mobile and aerial robotic platforms.
- Energy and Thermo-Fluids Lab – to investigate how thermos-fluids affect engineering design and experimentation in energy harvesting devices.
- Advanced Computing and Simulation Lab – a sophisticated computing and research collaboration center that will support the ERAU campus.
- Space Grant Lab – will support undergraduate research for individual and group research projects for CubeSat and high altitude scientific ballooning missions.
- Multi-Disciplinary Design Studio – to support realistic capstone engineering design experiences.
- Biology Labs – offering the latest in scientific learning opportunities in a professional environment.
- Forensic Lab – instruction in cutting-edge forensic biology with a strong pre-med emphasis for students who intend to pursue graduate school or medical school.
- Wildlife Science Lab – for studying animals, their habitats and ecological systems.
The truly distinguishing feature of the STEM Education Center will be the domed roof Planetarium and Lecture Hall, open to the public and intended for frequent community use.
The 125-seat planetarium will feature 10 high-speed, versatile integrated computers that can create images from virtually anywhere in the universe on the domed perforated overhead screens.
“We view the Planetarium and its auditorium-lecture hall as a site for providing unique STEM educational experiences for students not only in the Quad Cities area but throughout Central and Northern Arizona,” Ayers said.
“We at Embry-Riddle believe the key to future economic prosperity lies in our ability to provide students with STEM know-how,” said ERAU Enrollment Management Dean Bryan Dougherty. “We know not all the students will view the sciences as possible careers, but we want to help all schools throughout Arizona generate some excitement in students about opportunities in these dynamically developing vocational choices.”
ERAU hopes to bring middle school and high school students to campus every Friday. QCBN
By Ray Newton
Quad Cities Business News