Walk into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics building today, and you would find it cluttered, bustling with the sounds of heavy machinery and covered in drywall dust and wet paint. But in the Fall, the site across the street from Gaiser Hall that has been under construction for almost a year and a half, will be a fully functional place of learning.
At 70,000 square feet, the three-story building is the largest on campus. Featuring several upgrades over current facilities, the finished project will be a “state-of-the-art facility” for STEM classes, according to the Clark College Foundation’s Director of Communications Rhonda Morin.
Eye and body washing stations can be found in every chemistry lab in case of an accident. Fume hoods, large metal cavities with glass doors for safely mixing chemicals, line the walls. A storage area houses lockers for holding an array of chemicals, and a drive-thru-style window will let students request lab materials.
The cadaver lab holds six surgical tables, bringing the college’s total from five to 11. The tables are equipped with surgical lamps and projectors so students can watch without crowding around. Morin said classes held in the lab will serve biology, nursing, dentistry and even massage students.
“To see a real human body instead of one of the plastic ones, and see that it’s not all the same, and wonder ‘why is this vein in the wrong place?’ is a great learning opportunity,” Morin said.
In the lobby, a drop tower for conducting physics experiments stretches from the third-floor balcony to the ground. In the hallways, the ceilings are left bare for engineering students to study the piping, wiring and ductwork.
“The engineers certainly did a good job of designing a learning environment,” said Cory Zonich, project manager with Skanska, the construction company which currently controls the property.
Zonich said the building has a silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which measures a building’s environmental impact.
“Points are earned by using renewable materials, local materials, recycling, that sort of thing,” Zonich said. “We’d like to earn enough points to get up to a gold rating.”
According to the Clark College Foundation, 99 percent of the construction waste is being recycled.
Morin said the building will cost “around $39 million in total,” with $1.9 million raised by he Clark College Foundation, mostly by selling naming rights.
While the facility is a step up for Clark’s STEM program, it may come under criticism for its high cost while only benefiting students who take STEM classes. Morin, however, said she thinks the building will benefit the Clark community by nurturing a passion for scientific learning and causing a surge in STEM enrollment.
“We can have community events that will draw in young people, and hopefully it’ll get them excited about science and technology,” Morin said.
Morin said the building’s aesthetics could draw interest. While about a third of the grounds will be used to extend a parking lot, the rest will be landscaped.
“On a clearer day, you can see all of the volcanoes around: Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier,” Morin said. “It’s truly spectacular.”