By Charles Ratliff
Arizona Daily Wildcat
After an 11-year gestation period, the UA celebrated the birth of the new Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering building last Friday.
The groundbreaking ceremony combined current and future technology as university officials scooped dirt with a three-handled shovel, displaying the beginnings of engineering.
The department's lunar rover, designed as part of a joint U.S. and Russian moon project, provided the second part of the groundbreaking, spearheading the university and the engineering department toward the 21st century.
"To us, collectively, it's a very exciting day," said William Cosart, the associate dean of administration for the College of Engineering and Mines, to ceremony attendees.
"All of us connected with the project are pretty pumped up about its start," he said.
The project, estimated at $27.5 million, will be financed by bonds, said Melissa Dryden, program coordinator with Facilities Design and Construction.
"This is only the first step in a wider development," said President Manuel Pacheco in his speech. He said the facility will be joined by the construction of three more buildings to eventually house the entire College of Engineering and Mines.
"I feel really great it's finally happening," said Kumar Ramohalli, a mechanical engineering professor. Ramohalli said he served on the building committee from 1990-1992 and expects the facility will attract 21st century students through its modern high-tech buildings.
"It's been long overdue," said Steve Harper, mechanical engineering senior. "A lot of students were leaving because of the facilities, but having a new building should attract and keep students."
Harper said that although he
may never see the building, the college hopes to be holding classes in the new facility by the spring semester of 1997.
Ramohalli said approximately 1,000 students are enrolled in the engineering department, and he expects that number to double by the year 2000.
The architect's model shows the two buildings of the new facility will be connected by a courtyard and two upper-level bridges.
"The two bridges over the courtyard will be open steel trusswork," said George McFerron, project coordinator for the university. He said that engineering students would be able to study the bridges, as well as other design aspects of the buildings themselves.
"Exposed ductwork will be highlighting the engineering details," Dryden said.
As part of the design concept, the aerospace laboratory will have a curved ceiling above the housed supersonic wind tunnels to reflect aeronautical research, she said.
"It has an aeronautical look to it," Dryden said.
"We had tried to pick up and delineate the shape of airplanes" when the design was being considered during the planning phase of the project, McFerron said.
"Observation windows will be set into the wind tunnels for students to look into while passing," he said.
Ernest Smerdon, dean of the College of Engineering and Mines, said the project was put on hiatus in 1988 when the Arizona Board of Regents slapped a moratorium on new buildings after he presented the project to them for approval.
"The project was set aside until the climate was conducive for construction," said John Kulseth, associate architect for the project.
Dryden said the facility, to be located at the corner of East Speedway Boulevard and North Mountain Avenue, will encompass 90,000 square feet of labs, lecture halls and offices. Currently, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering students occupy half that space in five separate locations around campus.
Primarily, the project will run on a 680-day construction schedule, McFerron said.
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