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New complex transforms engineering education and research

Lisha Hassanali
Second-year mechanical engineering student Manpreet Deol values the Schulich School’s emphasis on individualized learning and teamwork. Photo by Sarah McGinnis, Schulich School of Engineering

The Schulich School of Engineering has a new home on campus, launching a new era in engineering education and research excellence. The Canadian Natural Resources Limited Engineering Complex opened to students in the fall of 2016 and includes two new 240-seat theatres, additional classrooms, labs, workrooms and research space.

At a cost of $174 million, the expansion project adds approximately 18,300 square metres of new space and 11,100 square metres of renovations to the existing engineering complex.

“This expansion will make the Schulich School of Engineering a centre of excellence for collaborative teaching, learning and engineering research,” says Bill Rosehart, dean of the Schulich School of Engineering.

Investing in students

The complex has increased study space for engineering students with an expanded student lounge. In addition, new undergraduate design labs will foster practical skills to help students develop new inventions, conceive start up companies or create inspiring technologies.

Second-year mechanical engineering student Manpreet Deol sees the new building as a centre for encouraging collaboration and building community. She also values the Schulich School’s emphasis on individualized learning and teamwork over traditional lecturing.

“On my first day of school this year I entered the ENG 24 room for my statistics lecture and was immediately surprised by the setup,” shares Deol, a Schulich Leader scholarship recipient. “It was far from a conventional lecture hall and more of a group space with an array of tables and whiteboards. I was thrilled. “

The complex features a social staircase that will act as a central hub for the engineering school, to host community outreach and to provide additional student study space.

Connecting the complex

One of the key goals of the expansion and renovation project was to link together the complex allowing people to move through Blocks A to F and the new Block G more easily. There was a deliberate focus on introducing natural light and a feeling of openness throughout the building.

“We created views into labs and offices,” says Anne Underwood, architect, Campus Architecture. “Before, walking along the corridors, you had no idea what was going on in the rooms you passed and no idea where you were in relation to the rest of the complex. Now you can see into spaces where students and faculty are learning, studying and actively engaged in lab activities while also having great views out into the surrounding campus. It’s inspiring.”

This building also preserves aspects of the school’s 50-year history by incorporating features such as the original 1960s staircase and using some of the former exterior walls as interior walls in the complex.

Research Innovation

New research spaces will include two new floors of labs to support leading-edge research into areas such as clean energy technology and renewable energy resources.

“The addition of state-of-the-art research faculties will further support problem-based research relevant to Calgary, Alberta and beyond,” says Rosehart.

A new space, lab upgrades and high-end equipment will energize research possibilities for Jocelyn Grozic. The civil engineering professor and associate dean (research) for the Schulich School has been working in labs dispersed across the complex. The expansion allows for a highly functional dedicated space for her research bringing together labs, post-doc researchers and graduate students into one area.

“We are thriving by being one location,” says Grozic. “The new integrative environment enriches team dynamics, nurtures idea generation and supports all of us as we tackle research challenges in search of solutions.”

Stepping into the future

Renovations to the engineering complex continue into 2017 creating even more spaces for students. There will be new workshops where student teams and clubs can design and build solar cars, concrete toboggans, electric motorcycles and other projects to support participating in national and international competitions.

Also under construction, a new and expanded student services centre will include the Engineering Students Centre and the Engineering Career Centre – allowing students to have their academic and career questions answered in one location.

“We are focused on student success and on providing quality hands-on lab and design experiences,” says Rosehart. “This project gives us the space to offer an enriched learning environment inside and outside the classroom.”