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UMKC unveils details of new $32 million center for School of Computing and Engineering

High-tech equipment will be featured in new $32 million UMKC building

UMKC announces it will build a $32 million education and research center for the university’s School of Computing and Engineering. The building will house such things as virtual reality and augmented reality equipment, a clean room and a “big data
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UMKC announces it will build a $32 million education and research center for the university’s School of Computing and Engineering. The building will house such things as virtual reality and augmented reality equipment, a clean room and a “big data

In less than three years, students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City will have access to 3-D technology that might allow a medical professional to practice a procedure in a virtual setting or an engineering major to construct an innovative product.

Students will crunch data in analytics labs that mirror those of large companies, such as Cerner and DST.

They’ll have access to a clean room that can be used to make robots, nanomaterials and healthcare devices.

UMKC will start construction on a new $32 million education and research center on the university’s Volker campus by late summer, university officials and community figures announced Friday.

The expansion of the School of Computing and Engineering was approved by the University of Missouri Board of Curators earlier this month and will be funded by university foundation dollars as well as private donations, including those of several Kansas City firms that already have partnerships with the school.

Construction on the new building — which would house virtual reality equipment, 3-D printing, data, and high-bay structural labs, a clean room and an electron microscope — is scheduled to begin late next summer and expected to conclude before the fall 2020 semester.

“The center...will enhance UMKC’s strength as a talent magnet to help keep our best and brightest here at home and to attract fresh new talent from across the country and truly, actually, around the world,” Interim Chancellor Barbara Bichelmeyer said in a press conference attended by Mayor Sly James and Civic Council of Greater Kansas City Chairman Scott Smith, among others.

Calling the new center, “a signal to the world that we (Kansas City) are open for business,” James spoke of the importance of investing in students who will fuel rapidly evolving technology and engineering industries, and a space where academic and industry people can collaborate.

When School of Computing and Engineering Dean Kevin Truman first came to UMKC in 2008, the university’s computing and engineering programs hosted a little more than 700 students, he said.

In the past decade, enrollment at the school has more than doubled, topping out at around 1,800 students last year, Truman said.

The school needs more space, Truman said. School officials want to decrease class sizes and add laboratories and project development areas.

But school officials have also taken seriously its role as an important contributor to the local workforce, Truman said, and hopes to further drive innovation through its center, which would be open for industry professionals to use.

Roughly 80 percent of UMKC’s computing and engineering students remain in Kansas City to work after school. Many UMKC students take on design projects for local engineering firms as part of their classwork. Others work for those firms as they finish their degrees.

After 2020, they’ll enter the workforce with experience working with high-tech equipment and participating in innovative research made possible through the center, Truman said.

“It’s a combination of wanting new high-tech equipment, new research facilities and more education space,” Truman said.

The proposed 44,400-square foot building will be constructed adjacent to the school’s current site, Flarsheim Hall.

“No offices,” Truman said. “This is all about teaching and research.”

Katy Bergen: 816-234-4120, @KatyBergen

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