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Clark College formally welcomes $40 million STEM Building

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published: October 3, 2016, 7:38pm
5 Photos
Visitors gather at Clark College's new STEM Building for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a tour of the facility Monday afternoon. Students have been in classes at the 70,000-square-foot building for about two weeks, but it was formally unveiled to the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian)
Visitors gather at Clark College's new STEM Building for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a tour of the facility Monday afternoon. Students have been in classes at the 70,000-square-foot building for about two weeks, but it was formally unveiled to the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Clark College’s newest building will blind you with science.

Its new 70,000-square-foot STEM Building was formally unveiled to a crowd of students and public officials Monday, though students have been in classes for two weeks now. STEM is a widely used acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and those subjects are represented in design elements throughout the $40 million building.

A 44-foot drop tower in the building’s lobby allows students to conduct physics and engineering experiments. Rodent skulls and stuffed birds and mammals leer at passers-by from inside glass cases in a hallway. There’s a periodic table of the elements laid into the floor tiles on the second floor. Even metal arches on the railings of stairs and banisters bear the word STEM in bold letters.

Speaking to a packed crowd that braved rain and chill, Clark College President Bob Knight called the building a “transformational project” for the community college.

“We are building for the future over the next several years,” Knight said. “Our companies locally will rely on students with strong STEM backgrounds.”

The building also features a cadaver lab, expanding the number of students able to take regularly waitlisted anatomy and physiology classes; outdoor learning spaces; and a lab called the Collaboratorium. That’s a fancy name for a room that offers students a chance to fiddle with 3-D printers, collaborate on projects and even large double doors that allow students to bring car-sized projects into the space. A student-built electric car was on display in the space at the celebration.

Science student Megan Phillips is optimistic that this quarter — her last — will be her best at Clark College because of the new building.

And so far, so good, Phillips said, standing in the packed lobby after Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

New opportunities

The 30-year-old science student, who plans to transfer to Portland State University to study civil and environmental engineering, said the new building has already given her more chances to collaborate and study with fellow students. She praised the teachers she’s had at Clark College, but said the small study rooms at the previous engineering building were too cramped and busy for the school’s students.

“It was well-loved and used, but not ergonomic to what we need,” she said.

The new building has been a long time coming for Clark College, Vice President of Instruction Tim Cook said. Work has been underway on the building for eight years, he said.

And as the local demand for trained professionals in scientific and technological fields has increased, the new building will help better serve students, he said.

“The whole building was thought of in terms of an active learning space,” Cook said. “How can we make this a real, live learning facility for students?”

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