By Ben Frederick
This semester, the second and final phase of Washkewicz Hall opened to the students. Besides a few minor cosmetic changes being made to certain rooms throughout the building, the whole building is completely open and functional now.
In phase two of Washkewicz Hall, a lot of new facilities were added to the building, according to George Chatzimavroudis, the associate dean of operations at the Washkewicz College of Engineering. With the completion of phase two, seven new teaching labs were added throughout the building. In addition to the teaching labs, one computer lab was added on the second floor with three general purpose classrooms. On each of the floors, collaborative spaces were added for students to meet and work on projects. These are just a few examples of what was added to the building with the opening of phase two.
“The idea was to use this space for labs. We needed labs,” Chatzimavroudis said in an interview. “The old building, Fenn Hall, as helpful as it was over the years, we outgrew it.”
From the original opening of the building, there were four teaching labs. Along with these labs, there were two computer labs, one general purpose classroom, and one flexible/student collaboration room.
“Phase one was building 60 percent of the internal facilities,” Chatzimavroudis said. “Building the entire envelope, the outside, and then 60 percent of the inside area was finished.”
On the administration’s side, they included The Student Success Suite in phase one to have all the resources any engineer would need in one spot. The Parker Hannifin Lab was also in the first phase. This is one of the most advanced labs in its field in the country.
Although phase two is currently open, the engineering college is still making minor changes. The deal with the contractor gives them one month for adjustments after the official opening day, which was Dec. 31, 2018. Thus, this gives the college until Jan. 31, 2019 to make changes.
Some of these changes include adding dimmer switches to classrooms with projectors and adding more flat screen TVs to certain spaces after seeing how the spaces function.
Another of the small cosmetic changes that the engineering college has made is switching the types of work tables in the Communications Lab. They switched to more practical tables after a semester of testing out the old ones. Chatzimavroudis said that the college also plans to add a directory to all floors by the elevator.
The only major addition to the building is an art piece that will be added to the first floor at the end of the summer or into the fall semester.
While Washkewicz Hall officially opened in December 2017, the university split the construction into two parts partially due to funding. With the urgent need for space, the university decided to move forward with phase one while working to secure the funds for phase two.
The old building, Fenn Hall, was overcrowded with labs, with many of the labs having to share rooms and not having the necessary space that they needed.
The labs that moved to the new building were chosen based on the need of a new space. If the lab needed a certain design of space that could not be given to them in Fenn Hall, then it was chosen to be moved to the new building where they could create the room from scratch.
Fenn Hall will remain part of the Engineering College and will mostly be used for the labs that were not moved over to the new building and for the majority of the classrooms.
“There won’t be any empty facilities. Even some of them that have completely moved, the departments needed research labs for so long, because with the new faculties coming in, they need research facilities,” Chatzimavroudis explained.
Although no formal opening was held for the completion of phase two, the college is considering holding a ceremony to honor the completion of the building as a whole once all the minor changes in the classrooms are complete. This ceremony is not set in stone but is being planned for March 2019.
Overall, student and faculty reactions have been great, according to Chatzimavroudis.
One student, junior mechanical engineering major Ali Prox, is one example.
“I enjoy the new rooms and all the new technology that has been added,” she said. “The rooms will help make the learning process easier.”
However, there are still some complaints.
“The glass walls can be a little distracting when people are walking around the hallway,” Prox said.