Renovation Brings Cutting-Edge Technology

Renovation Brings Cutting-Edge Technology

Spaces in the Miller Gorrie Center, home of the McWhorter School of Building Science, are getting upgrades that will completely change the way students learn about the construction industry. Thanks to the generous support of our donors, students will have access to a Virtual Design Construction Laboratory, Three Competition Team rooms, and a renovated Engaged Active Student Learning classroom. The additional resources and learning experiences provided by these renovations will place the McWhorter School of Building Science at the forefront of building construction education.


The Building Science “Demonstration Lab” is being repurposed into a Virtual Design Construction (VDC) Laboratory. “The VDC lab is our next step in creating an environment that immerses students in evolving technology that impacts and transforms the construction industry,” says Anoop Sattineni, Bob Aderholt Endowed Professor in Building Science. “This technology allows for students to gain experience working with virtual reality and building information modeling. The large digital space allows us to help students visualize construction on a one-to-one scale.” The lab, prominently visible from the main entry and lobby of the Miller Gorrie Center, will signal the rigor and relevance of our curriculum to prospective students, faculty, and industry partners.

The innovation of this project is common ground between our program and the industry, and we have two lead donors to thank for the work being done on the VDC lab. M. Miller and Francis Gorrie have donated to ensure that our students receive the best educational experience possible and to honor the men and women of Brasfield and Gorrie. Holder Construction, a leader in construction technology, has recruited CADC students for the past 30 years and given a lead gift to this project as well.

“I see our participation more as giving back than I do simply giving,” says Drew Yantis, Senior Vice President of Holder and 1987 Building Science alumnus. “When I think about this exciting new space and what it’s going to do, I think of it as a space that will support visualization, demonstration, and collaboration – skills that help keep our students on the leading edge of innovation. Our priority is the students, but we are also invested in the faculty, the school and the college, so the vision for the VDC Lab and the impact it will have is important to us all.”

Competition Team Rooms

Recent upgrades will also include three competition team rooms. “Each year, approximately 100 building science students commit themselves above and beyond their required class and lab hours to participate in the student competition team program,” explains Building Construction Program Chair Mark Taylor. “They compete regionally, nationally, and internationally in competitions concentrating on commercial construction, heavy civil, roofing, electrical and mechanical, design-build, and health care construction, to name a few.” Many other schools have a class dedicated to the competitions, so their students have set hours and locations each day to meet and discuss their plans. Our competition teams have always prepared on their own, making time between classes and working when they can. “The McWhorter School, along with the efforts of Evan Thomas and the CADC Development Office, is fortunate to be able to support the student competition teams,” says Taylor. “This academic year (2017-2018), we will have fifteen teams competing at seven different venues.”

The new competition team rooms will provide a productive workspace and give our competition teams a place to store their materials and technology, work together to make plans, and even video conference industries during their preparations. The competition team program is a vital part of the education our students receive. It trains students for highly functional teamwork within the construction industry, exposes them to industry, gives industry leaders an opportunity to assist in the development of winning teams, and the students’ participation raises the visibility of Auburn’s construction program and boosts our reputation. “We are thrilled to be giving these students and this program the recognition and the essential workspace they deserve,” says Austin Walker of the Atlanta Building Science Alumni committee, which funded one of the team rooms. The other two rooms were made possible by EMJ Corporation and Caddell Construction.

The Auburn Board of Trustees approved the VDC and the Competition Team Room renovations at its Fall board meeting. Construction is expected to begin at the end of the Fall Semester and be completed in time for the 2018-19 academic year.

EASL Classroom

There is nothing ordinary about classes in building construction, and we believe the classrooms should meet these standards as well. The McWhorter School of Building Science is creating an Engaged Active Student Learning (EASL) classroom to be available for use beginning Fall 2018. This type of classroom is often called a “flipped classroom” due to the non-traditional or inverse teaching method applied in the space. Instead of the usual lecture style of most classes, the EASL classroom is built around the idea of having students at centerstage and engaging with those around them. The EASL classroom will feature eight “pods” of furniture to encourage group activities and corresponding glass boards on all walls to allow for more effective collaboration. Modern technology will allow students to connect to projecting devices using their own laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices, and easily share their work with other students across the room. The teaching station will contain a computer, laptop connection, and a document camera. Touchscreen technology will allow users to choose what device will be shared with what combination of monitors in the room.

Up to eight corporate partners will have the opportunity to brand one glass board and pod section of the EASL classroom each with their corporate signage. Currently, three partners have committed: Bailey-Harris, Evergreen Construction, and Robins & Morton. Companies interested in partnering with us to give our students the cutting-edge resources they deserve, please contact Melissa Denney.

These new upgrades will provide Auburn Building Science students with a healthy advantage. They will be top candidates in their fields simply because of their preparation in state-of-the-industry technology. The renovations are sure to supplement our students’ learning experiences and, in turn, Auburn’s reputation for excellence.

This article was originally published in the Quoin, the McWhorter School of Building Science magazine.

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