University goes under construction


Jessie Hellmann

Even though students left for the summer, USI’s campus was anything but quiet with the whirring of machines tearing up asphalt, erecting building structures and the completion of several renovations.

The university made headway on existing projects and started and completed some new ones. Here is a rundown of what happened while students were gone:

1: Applied Engineering Center

 A laboratory facility for engineering, industrial supervision and advanced manufacturing students, the Applied Engineering Center has been in the works since fall 2011.

The center will hold different types of machinery used for cutting metals and wood to provide students with hands-on experience.

A unique aspect of the Applied Engineering Center is that it is one of only two laboratories in the entire world equipped with German Festo technology.

It also contains modern and large equipment such as the same welding robot used by Toyota.

It cost $3.3 million, which was funded through the university reserve fund. A ribbon cutting is scheduled for Sept. 13.

“We’re really looking forward to using the new facility and we have the first classes scheduled to meet in it this semester,” said Zane Mitchell, Engineering Department chair.

He said about 70 students will use the facility this semester, but eventually all 400 students in the major will use it.

“They’re going to get exposure to state of the art manufacturing equipment prior to entering the workforce,” Mitchell said. “It’s a valuable tool for educating our students.”


2: University apartments

Mount and Wallace campus apartment buildings underwent renovations over the summer, as part of a multi-year apartment renovation project.

Facility operations and planning director Stephen Helfrich said the two buildings, as well as the Baker building earlier in the year, received interior renovations in the forms of new cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, heating and air systems, carpet and paint jobs.

 The past few summers, the university has renovated two or three apartment buildings, but Helfrich said the university is going to seek approval to speed things up a bit.

“If we only do three a year, it will take a while, and by the time we finished we’d have to start over,” he said. “In the next year or so, we’ll get approval to renovate many more buildings over a summer to try to shorten the number of years it will take.”

The three housing renovations cost the university $1.3 million. Funding came from the university’s housing reserves.


3: The Teaching Theatre

 Almost an entire year after the Teaching Theatre’s groundbreaking, it’s almost 50 percent complete, Helfrich said.

The $16.7 million project started under the leadership of former USI President H. Ray Hoops and is expected to be completed fall 2014.

The theatre, which will be used for performances and instructional purposes, will have 300 seats, compared to USI’s Mallette Studio’s 100 seats.

“Construction has been pretty smooth this summer,” Helfrich said. “We’re now to the point of being ready to start laying the stone and brick exterior.”

Sandstone from Brazil, Ind., and limestone from Bedford, Ind., will be used for the exterior walls.

Over the summer, Helfrich said masonry walls were constructed and the structural steel was erected. In the next few months, students should expect to see the roof and the exterior in place.

“We’re striving to get the roof on so we can waterproof the building,” he said. “Once we do that, a lot more people can start working in there.”

Senior theatre major Erik McCandless said the Teaching Theatre will provide students with many opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.

“From a lighting student’s standpoint, it will be a huge advancement in our education since we will be working with equipment that we can’t use in a blackbox theatre,” McCandless said.

He said the new equipment in the theatre will save time and a second venue may allow for more performances throughout the year.

“Also, since it will be getting an entirely different inventory of lighting units and control, I will get to design in another type of architectural space with equipment that I have yet to work with, which will help us all learn to adapt to working in different theatres once we leave USI,” McCandless said.

A topping off ceremony, where people sign the last beam before it is raised into place, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sept. 5.


4: Bennett Lane    

 The road that partially stretches in front of the Physical Activities Center (PAC), Bennett Lane experienced major renovations over the summer to create more efficiency and beauty, Helfrich said.

“There were several problems with the old Bennett Lane,” Helfrich said.

Part of the improvements included creating an unloading lane in front of the PAC that can fit a few buses or several cars.

“If someone wanted to drop someone off, they would always end up blocking a lane of traffic,” Helfrich said. “This will help keep the traffic flowing but allow people to drop off and pick up persons for events.”

Medians between the travel lanes were also constructed.

“They allow us to not only make the area prettier with more plants, but it is also a safety feature,” he said.

Another safety feature is the raised crosswalks that will help direct pedestrians across the roads at a central point.

“(The renovations) are just going to make the entrance to the PAC much more attractive and help beautify the campus even more,” he said.

The project cost $670,000, with 80 percent of the funding coming from the federal government in 2009, and the remaining 20 percent coming from USI reserves funds.


Other campus projects:

The Eagles Nest, the area in University Center West where all the food options are, received new lighting fixtures. The Recreation, Fitness and Wellness Center added a new computer lab adjoining the indoor track on the facility’s second level. The Health Professions building added a simulation lab for its students.