Iowa State University


Jim Melsa, Engineering, (515) 294-5935
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University officials today (Sept. 20) broke new ground in engineering education with a ceremony dedicating the beginning of construction of the first phase of the Engineering Teaching and Research Complex (ETRC). On hand to help celebrate the construction of ETRC was Gov. Terry Branstad, Speaker of the House Ron Corbett (R-Cedar Rapids), Regents President Owen Newlin and Iowa State President Martin Jischke.

"The ETRC is the flagship effort by the College of Engineering to move engineering education into the next century," said Engineering Dean Jim Melsa. "The exciting possibilities of the ETRC in combining engineering practice with engineering education and outreach means that our students will have an educational experience that will prepare them to 'hit the floor running' once they graduate. The end result will be Iowa State engineering graduates who will be able to step into challenging positions and perform immediately."

The ETRC will consist of two buildings -- one on the west side (phase I) and one on the east side (phase II) of Bissell Road. The buildings will be joined by a skywalk and tunnel.

Phase I of the ETRC will be called Stanley and Helen Howe Hall in honor of the Muscatine, Iowa, couple who donated $6 million to the ETRC. Stanley Howe is chairman emeritus and a member of the board of directors at HON INDUSTRIES, a manufacturer of office furniture and prefabricated fireplace units. The Howes' gift is supplemented with an additional $1 million in furniture from HON INDUSTRIES.

When completed, the ETRC will provide 264,000-gross-square- feet of space. It will include high-tech classrooms, lecture halls and auditoriums with multi-media and distance learning equipment; labs for technology research; the C2 virtual reality room; a wind tunnel for teaching and research; and communications technologies linking Iowa State to schools, community colleges, engineers and industry.

Funding of the $61 million ETRC came from the state of Iowa ($33 million) and from non-state sources ($28 million). Already, some $27.6 million has been received in private support for ETRC and is part of the ISU Foundation's $300- million Campaign Destiny: To Become the Best.

The ETRC signals a strong commitment to the future of engineering by Iowa State and the state of Iowa, according to Melsa.

"ETRC is the largest capital project ever undertaken by Iowa State University," Melsa said. "It's a clear signal that engineering at Iowa State will continue to play a crucial role in the nation into the next millennium. The state of Iowa also has gotten behind this project and legislators have guaranteed, through their commitment to ETRC, that the engineering graduates of Iowa State will remain on the cutting edge of their profession."

When completed, the ETRC will bring together the basic principles of Iowa State -- teaching, research and service -- and directly apply them to engineering education. The goal of ETRC and the College's Re-engineering Engineering Education initiative is to help students learn engineering concepts through direct involvement with their application, Melsa said.

In the ETRC, an engineering student will not only learn the theory of suspension bridges, but also will see what happens when such bridges are pushed to their limits through computer visualization techniques. The student will also take part in industrially relevant research projects where he or she will not only apply engineering expertise, but also learn how to work in teams and to develop leadership skills. The end result will be a student who has learned rather than been taught engineering, and experience will be a key to that student's education.

"Companies need engineering graduates who can perform right out of school," Melsa said. "They've told us they need graduates who can take on a wide range of tasks, work in teams and provide well thought-out solutions that consider a wide range of variables."

Melsa added that because engineering is an ever-changing profession, the ETRC will facilitate the "lifetime of learning" required by practicing engineers to stay abreast of their fields. Finally, the ETRC will reach out to young students, especially minorities and women, who are first considering career paths and entice them into engineering.

"Engineering changes rapidly because that's the nature of the profession," Melsa said. "It changes in how it is performed, in what it is performed with, and where it is performed. With the ETRC, Iowa State will stay on top of changes in the profession and shape the future of engineering education."

Howe Hall is expected to be completed by early 2000. Construction of phase II, will begin in the summer of 1998. Completion of the entire complex is scheduled for December 2001.

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