UMKC Breaks Ground on Engineering Building

A couple of weeks ago, new chancellor Mauli Agrawal spoke at a meeting of regional business executives, and recounted a conversation he’d had earlier this summer, just after arriving at UMKC. How, he asked of Kevin Truman, dean of the school of computing and engineering, could a university in a town with so many engineering firms have such a small engineering program?

“‘You should have seen it when I got here–it’s tripled since then,'” he says Truman told him. Agrawal’s response: “We need to triple it again.”

A big step toward that goal was Thursday’s groundbreaking celebration for the $32 million research and lab building for the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering: The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise and Research Center. The 57,800-square-foot building will serve not only the student population, but the community at large, the university says. It will include a maker space with industry-grade equipment available for anyone to use when it opens in 2020.

“The efforts of our faculty and staff – under the leadership of Dean Kevin Truman – have led to a rapid increase in student enrollment over the past 10 years at the School of Computing and Engineering,” Agrawal said. “The new education and research center will increase both classroom space and faculty research capabilities for the school, both of which play a key role in maintaining and enhancing Kansas City and Missouri’s ability to compete in a high-tech 21st century global economy.”

Truman said the facility would provide world-class research opportunities for subjects like nanomaterials, unmanned aircraft, Big Data and renewable energy. In a news release on the groundbreaking the university said that the building’s capabilities would include:

  • $3 million worth of new virtual reality and augmented reality equipment.
  • A clean room and scanning electron microscope, which can allow for the development of nanotechnology, robotics, biomedical applications, mechatronics and other technologies.
  • Research-grade 3-D printing equipment.
  • A high-bay structural lab that will power research and development for, and prepare the workforce for, Kansas City’s large and growing civil engineering and construction sector.
  • “Big Data” analytics labs that will replicate major data centers, preparing students for jobs at local tech firms such as Cerner and Garmin as well as major national and international employers such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook.
  • An energy learning and research facility that will address topics ranging from renewable energy and traditional high-voltage transmission to the creation of batteries small enough to power tiny monitors being used in medical research and healthcare.

Construction work is already starting on the building, which will bear the name of the Missouri businessman who co-founded Enactus (formerly Students in Free Enterprise). Plaster was a member of its executive board until his death in 2008.

You can read more about the groundbreaking and the facility here.