UTSA Opens Science and Engineering Building, Advanced Maker Space

By Iris Gonzalez
The exterior of UTSA's new Science and Engineering building. Photo credit: UTSA.

San Antonio college students pursuing science and engineering have gained cutting-edge research laboratories and an advanced technology maker space at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). After three years of construction, the new Science and Engineering Building (SEB) will open August 22.

The $95 million, 160,349 square-foot space will provide much-needed laboratories and classrooms, as well as an expansive collaboration space for UTSA students researching brain health, chemical engineering, computer and electrical engineering, biology, and chemistry, University officials stated.

The new facility is a big part of UTSA’s strategy to become a destination for research excellence.

“The SEB has been in the making for a long time—conversations for it were already happening when I joined UTSA in 2007,” stated Jonathan Jarrell, senior project manager for UTSA’s department of major capital projects.

The new science and engineering building has advanced research labs and a three-story collaboration space where students can work together on projects. The 17,000 square-foot maker space includes a design studio, a machine shop, a 3-D printing room, and other state-of-the-art equipment.

Students will also be able to use the two-story Canadian-manufactured distillation column commonly used in chemical engineering research to separate—or distill—liquid solutions into their parts. While most industrial workplaces have columns that are many stories high (larger columns can complete more complex distillations), most university labs are limited by space and can only offer bench-top distillation units.

The SEB’s towering distillation column will help attract talent to UTSA’s recently founded chemical engineering program, which launched in 2017. UTSA’s Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship (CITE) will also access the maker space so that faculty members and students can work together to commercialize their UTSA discoveries, products, and services for the market.

UTSA College of Engineering dean JoAnn Browning said the maker space would serve as a “home base” for graduating seniors in engineering, working with their senior design teams, now able to fabricate new components via 3-D printing quickly.

The new building’s generous space is also proving to be an advantage for students maintaining social distancing during a pandemic. Browning said students would get to use the maker space this semester.

“We have safety protocols in place, and are working on the training certifications for students to have safe access to all its uses,” Browning emailed Startups San Antonio. “The Senior Design classes are being scheduled in the space—it is ideal because it is spread out and roomy.  Also, the shop and 3-D printer room will be staffed so that students can finish their design projects.”

The new building and expansive maker space will help students from different disciplines connect on interdisciplinary research, a powerful driver of knowledge creation, scientific progress, and innovation.

“No matter their career aspiration—research scientist, biotech worker, chemical engineer, medical professional, tech company entrepreneur—the SEB provides access to the inspirational, hands-on activities based on group collaboration that will propel them to their goal,” stated David Silva, dean of UTSA’s College of Sciences.

 

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