Published: April 6, 1997

Editors: A media tour of the ITLL will be at 10 a.m. April 22 beginning at the east entrance of the engineering college.

The University of Colorado at Boulder will dedicate a one-of-a-kind, $17 million hands-on learning facility April 24 that was designed and built to provide real-world engineering experience to more than 1,200 undergraduates a day.

The three-story Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory features two large learning plazas and 30 lab stations outfitted with advanced instruments and computers. Student teams are tackling hands-on engineering problems ranging from water-pollution mitigation and software design to the construction of spacecraft instruments and assistive technology devices for people with disabilities.

"There is nothing like this facility anywhere in the United States," said civil engineering Research Associate Jacquelyn Sullivan, co-director of ITLL. “We set out to create a learning environment in tune with the real world, a place where students team up, communicate and problem-solve on their feet.”

One hallmark of the building is its “inside-out” design, exposing many of the building’s systems through transparent wall panels. Students can use more than 200 sensors throughout the structure to “take the pulse of the building,” including its foundation, structure and mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems.

They also can monitor its temperature, airflow, humidity and vibration for various experiments, said mechanical engineering Professor Lawrence Carlson, co-director of ITLL. “We wanted to show the students what makes a building tick, so we designed this one with no secrets.”

The dedication will include remarks by Joe Bordogna, acting deputy director of the National Science Foundation and Norman Augustine, president and CEO of Lockheed-Martin. Other speakers include CU president John Buechner, CU-Boulder Chancellor Richard Byyny and CU-Boulder engineering college Dean Ross Corotis.

The ceremonies will include a symposium from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. with the formal dedication taking place from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Engineering Dean Eleanor Baum of The Cooper Union in New York and Joel Birnbaum, senior vice president of research and development at Hewlett Packard also will speak. A ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:25 p.m. will feature novel inventions created by freshman students to perform the task.

"Our vision of ITLL is that of a K-16 facility,” said Sullivan. Special hands-on camps are scheduled this summer for elementary and middle school students from the region. “We would like to get more kids in the engineering pipeline and attract a broader range of students to CU-Boulder,” she said.

The close proximity of lab stations to one another should enhance curiosity and cooperation among undergraduates from the college's six departments, said Sullivan. Students can wheel experiment carts up to the lab stations and plug their projects into a state-of-the-art, high-tech world for data acquisition and analysis. Each lab station is equipped with two interactive computers.

In one mobile experiment, students can simulate a groundwater aquifer complete with rivers, wells and various soil types to model effects of toxic spills.

"We think ITLL will become the leading example in the nation of a new way to educate engineering undergraduates," said Dean Ross Corotis.

The new building also houses six "smart" classrooms featuring multimedia equipment, computers and high-resolution video projectors, including two for first-year engineering design labs. First-year teams are designing and testing products from scratch using computers, hand tools and workbenches.

Past first-year projects have included devices for children with disabilities, inventions to make recycling easier, the design of pollution sensors and clever “Rube Goldberg” contraptions built to perform simple tasks in surprising ways.

The facility also includes four large studios for year-long senior design and construction projects equipped with computers and instruments and arranged much like lab space in a corporate research and development environment.

A simulation and data-visualization lab with 25 high-performance computer work stations in the new facility will help students model and predict the performance of designs before they are built, said Sullivan.

"The goal is to make engineering more exciting and meaningful," Carlson said. "Experience with teamwork and creative problem solving should make students more marketable and better able to function in today's engineering world."

Funding was provided by private donors, foundations, the state of Colorado and from a tuition surcharge approved by CU-Boulder engineering students. Engineering college alumnus John Drescher donated $1.3 million and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation of Los Altos, Calif., donated $1.27 million.