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Faculty, staff and students of the University of Missouri College of Engineering hosted a dedication ceremony and open house on November 5 to officially launch the long-awaited and newly completed addition to Lafferre Hall.

Phase I in the college’s multi-phase reconstruction and renovation replaced the razed 1922 addition — 25,000 square feet of high-bay labs and machine, forge and wood shops built to accommodate the civil and mechanical engineering research of the day — with 60,000 square feet of modern multi-disciplinary undergraduate lab space, research facilities, classrooms and offices. The new addition marks the tenth time the sprawling complex of Lafferre Hall, located at the southwest corner of MU’s Francis Quadrangle, has flexed and stretched to accommodate the education of engineers.

A $2 million federal grant and a $19.9 million bond approved by the MU Board of Curators in 2006, funded the $21.9 million project. Additional projects undertaken simultaneously by the University included heating and steam pipe upgrades and renovation to the exterior of the original 1892 engineering building, including tuck pointing, replacement of windows, roof and drainage upgrades, and renovation of four classrooms.

A LOOK BACK

Construction of the original red brick engineering buildings on the Quad in 1892 and 1893 came on the heels of what has been called the second industrial revolution, giving a home on the MU campus to expanding engineering disciplines. Discoveries of electricity, the internal combustion engine and the telephone gave a boost to industry and created a need for engineers across a broad range of disciplines. Between 1859, when civil engineering was established at MU, and 1903, four additional departments were initiated: military (now naval sciences), electrical, mechanical and chemical engineering. Agricultural engineering was introduced in 1917.

The 1922 construct spread west behind the earliest of the two original buildings — the Mechanic Arts building — rebuilt at the same time because of a catastrophic fire in 1911. In 1935, two additional structures expanded the second of the two National Historic Register red campus buildings westward.

A burst in technology after World War II launched the information age. Computers, microelectronics and advances in aerospace, nuclear power and telecommunications capabilities created more engineering opportunities. Additions in 1944 and 1958 to the expanding complex — then called Engineering Building East — continued to the west. An entire new building, dubbed Engineering Building West, went up across Sixth Street in 1958 to house electrical engineering.

Industrial engineering was added to the curriculum in 1958, followed by nuclear engineering in 1964 and the addition of aerospace engineering to the mechanical engineering department in 1967.

Computer engineering joined electrical engineering in 1982, and computer science and biological engineering (partnered with Ag engineering) were added to the curriculum in 1995 and 1997, respectively, largely in response to expanding innovations in molecular and genetic biology.

Environmental engineering, added to civil engineering in 1998, rounded out the college’s current departmental offerings until the Information Technology program was launched in 2005.

Prior to 2009, the most recent building addition occurred in 1991 — which most notably added Mizzou Engineering’s award-winning information commons and library, and Ketcham Auditorium — and were dedicated in 1995, completing the Lafferre Hall engineering edifice.

A VISION REALIZED

“This project has been on the table as long as I’ve been here,” said Engineering Dean Jim Thompson, who has championed the completed construction and additional improvements since his appointment in 1994. Thompson believes that the improved facilities will have a profound impact on attracting and educating engineering students and on faculty research.

“The new interdisciplinary undergraduate labs on the first floor replace lecture learning with experiential learning,” Thompson said. “Office and lab space on the second and third floors represents considerably improved facilities for faculty, which will allow them to compete even more successfully for research funding at a national level.”

Lex Akers, the college’s academic dean, spearheaded the design of the first floor undergraduate labs and classrooms. He visited universities around the country in his quest to build a facility that would “change the culture of the college.”

In addition to specialized areas for hydrology projects — a wet lab — electrical work, and smaller specialized lab spaces, a large open, central lab space with adaptable workstations dominates the first floor of the addition, something that Akers has championed since the beginning of the project. Students from different departments share the computer workstations in this lab, which are adaptable to various engineering regimens with “modular” instrumentation that can be switched out depending on the focus or topic of coursework or research.

“There are tremendous advantages to teaching fundamentals and to the interactions that can occur when all kinds of engineers learn together,” Akers said. “The right sort of facility encourages this. It can change the paradigm of how we teach.”

“I used to teach design of electronics. I could teach students complicated mathematical calculations, but they were clueless when we got to the lab. There was no connection between theory and application,” Akers said. “The lab is where students take the facts that they have learned and make the knowledge theirs.”

Akers said the set-up of classrooms on the perimeters of the open lab areas facilitates the process. Students can walk fresh from a lecture directly into the lab to apply the lesson.

“Connecting theory to something you can touch and feel is something I’ve always believed in. And then to get to build a facility that will allow for learning by doing has been one of the great thrills of my life,” said Akers.

In addition to maximizing functionality of lab spaces, Akers said that he was intent on a modern-looking facility with lots of light. “We wanted this to be a showcase,” he said.

BRASS TACKS

“This sort of project is like a heart transplant,” said Marty Walker, director of administrative services. “While it was going on, everything else had to continue operating during the construction period. Even the construction people worried about how it would impact students,” he added, referring to KCI Construction Company, the firm responsible for the project.

Walker calls the addition a “great equalizer,” because it makes the floors throughout the buildings “communicate,” as all are now easily accessible from anywhere in the sprawling complex.

He is most pleased that the construction was completed on time and a few thousand dollars under budget.

“We had what you could call the perfect storm on this project. KCI, under the supervision of Andy Fulmer, and MU project manager Jim Henley did a great job of cooperating, providing us with a building that is superior in all ways. They had a synergistic relationship with contractors, so it all went smoothly, almost seamlessly,” said Walker. “And we are deeply appreciative of the interest and concern Gary Ward, assistant vice chancellor of facilities, had that the 1892 building look as good as the 2009 addition,” he added, referring to the face lift that the college’s original building received.

“It’s so gratifying to see such a substantial improvement in our facilities,” said Thompson. “I’m especially grateful to alums Bud Moulder, Walt Vandelicht and Tony Bonderer, as they were the squeaky wheels that kept me going and kept the need for this construction before the university.”

“It is important that we continue our momentum and work toward implementing the next phase in this project, which will continue toward the north through the building, adding additional integrated learning labs,” Thompson added.

“Once Phase II is completed,” said Akers, “the facilities within the College of Engineering will be on par with any of the engineering schools in the nation that I visited. This is a work in progress.



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