Virginia Western Opens New STEM Building

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The 72,000-square-foot, $37 million facility will be a hub for collaboration

Virginia Western Community College opened its new STEM Building to students on Monday at a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil the state-of-the-art equipment and contemporary classrooms with a focus on collaboration. The new 72,000-square-foot facility, dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, is the largest on campus and was designed with input from faculty and staff to best serve the region’s growing needs.

“This amazing new facility is the result of many years of dedicated, hard work and forethought,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “We expect it to be a destination for students and industry partners who are interested in getting ahead in the region’s growing, STEM-focused economy. It is designed to adapt to our community’s needs and we are so thrilled to show it off.”

Classrooms in the $37 million facility were designed to be open and flexible, allowing students to seamlessly move from a lecture-style setting to group work. White boards cover the walls along with 80-inch TV monitors to replace the traditional chalkboards and projectors that were present in the School of STEM’s former home, Anderson Hall, which was more than 50 years old.

“We want to prepare students for careers that are available now and those that don’t even exist yet,” said Amy White, Dean of STEM. “They will have opportunities to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will serve them well in whichever field they pursue. Hands-on learning is central to all that we do, and this facility will encourage that in every discipline.  Our hope is that this building will not only educate, but also motivate and inspire all the students we serve.”

Programs that will be located in the STEM Building include Mechatronics, Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, Biotechnology, Physics and Mathematics. New cutting-edge equipment includes a phase contrast fluorescence microscope, a multiphoton confocal microscope, a scanning electron microscope, four new spectrometers, process control units, a 5 axis CNC milling machine, a 24-foot water flume and a collaborative robot.

A new grassy courtyard between the STEM Building, the Strauss Family Student Life Center and Webber Hall will be a hive for student activity. It is designed to blend beautifully with the Colonial Avenue streetscape, which is slated to be complete before the end of 2019.

To find out more about Virginia Western’s STEM programs, visit www.virginiawestern.edu/academics or call (855) 874-6690.

By the Numbers

  • 44 miles of communication cable
  • 217 computers
  • 103 TV monitors
  • 70 white boards
  • 12 wet labs (an increase of 5 on campus)

New Equipment

  • Phase Contrast Fluorescence Microscope: Detects the presence of materials, such as protein, and identifies the location of materials in relation to other structures in a cell or tissue.
  • Multiphoton Confocal Microscope: Provides high-resolution fluorescent imaging of cellular processes or other materials and generates 3D images of structures using laser scanning to improve resolution.
  • Scanning Electron Microscope: Provides visibility at 250 to 500 times the magnification of most light microscopes, with focused electron beams to show detailed features of samples and composition and topography information.  This microscope allows visualization at the nanometer level.
  • 4 new spectrometers: Used in analytical chemistry to determine information about an object or substance, these sophisticated instruments employ a variety of methods to identify and characterize materials and molecules.
  • Collaborative Robot: Much like industrial robots that are common in manufacturing, the largest difference between the two is that collaborative robots are designed to safely work with human operators rather than in lieu of operators. The robot can easily be taught new processes and tasks as operators or operations change, without safety concerns.

Top 5 STEM programs of study at Virginia Western

  • Mechatronics
  • Engineering
  • Biology/Chemistry/Biotechnology
  • Computer Science and Information Technology
  • Health Sciences