Eastern Washington University will dedicate its first new academic building in 34 years today, and the party sounds a lot like a science lab.
That’s on purpose, of course – the new Computing and Engineering Building on the Cheney campus is meant to expand lab and classroom access for science students. Those students will be demonstrating their work during the building’s dedication today, ranging from a robot to a discussion of how to instill fear reactions in video game characters.
“The building is for the students, and so it’ll be students cutting the ribbon and it’ll be students leading tours of the building,” said EWU spokesman Dave Sonntag.
The four-story, $26.2 million building opened for classes this quarter. Though it’s the first EWU-owned academic building on campus since 1971, there has been other construction, from housing complexes to the state-owned digital archives building and Washington State Patrol crime lab.
EWU describes the combination of the lab, the archives and the new building as an “applied research complex,” intended to find ways for students to do work that would have direct applications in the regional economy, Sonntag said.
They also have helped to expand the scope of the Cheney campus, said Mick Brzoska, associate dean of the College of Science, Math and Technology, and director of the new building.
“These three buildings all together make quite a change to this end of campus,” Brzoska said.
The building will help the school deal with increases in students enrolled in computer science, and engineering and design – the two schools that occupy the new building. Brzoska said the number of engineering and design students has grown by 25 percent over the last five years, and computer science enrollment has risen 15 percent.
The building includes 21 labs and an open design that encourages collaboration and contact across disciplines, Brzoska said.
It’s also home of the school’s new electrical engineering degree and part of EWU’s efforts to address the shortfall in bachelor’s degrees awarded to Washington residents – especially in the area of science degrees, where the state lags behind national averages on all levels, the school says.
Washington state ranks 29th in the number of doctorates awarded in science and engineering, and 43rd in the number of graduate students in those subjects, according to the Seattle-based Technology Alliance. Washington ranks 46th in the country in state support for research and development, but the new Life Sciences Discovery Fund, started by Gov. Christine Gregoire, is intended to change that.