College Of Engineering And Applied Science Set To Build Discovery Learning Center

Published: June 2, 1999

Note to editors: A conceptual drawing of the Discovery Learning Center is available by calling (303) 492-7426.

Klipp Colussy Jenks DuBois Architects of Denver have been selected, pending approval by the CU Board of Regents, to design the Discovery Learning Center, an innovative new facility at CU-Boulder's College of Engineering and Applied Science that will help expand student involvement in current research.

The new center will be a showcase for the college's Discovery Learning Initiative, which engineering Dean Ross B. Corotis says is creating a new model for inquiry-based education. The college-wide initiative is engaging students, both at the graduate and undergraduate level, in real-world problem solving in a collaborative environment with faculty and industry partners, as part of their educational experience.

The initiative and center will help to meet industry needs for a technologically advanced workforce and for continuing education of current employees, Corotis said.

The 45,000-square-foot facility will address a critical space shortage in the Engineering Center, which was built more than 30 years ago when there were fewer students, faculty and research programs. Space in the new facility will be flexible to meet the needs of different research projects as they come on line.

The new building will be located at the southwest corner of Regent Drive and Colorado Avenue, connected to the Engineering Center complex. College leaders expect to begin construction next spring, with a fall 2001 opening projected.

The $15.3 million project is being funded with a $7.8 million state appropriation and matching dollars from private donors. The state Legislature approved a one-year appropriation for design and construction, and both phases of the project were included in the 1999 appropriations bill signed by Gov. Bill Owens in May.

State legislators said they were impressed with the extent of private support for the project, which includes donations from industry, foundations and individual alumni of the college.

"The whole concept of integrated research and teaching, and the ability of K-12 teachers to access it on-line is terribly creative and innovative," said Sen. Terry L. Phillips of Louisville, who led legislators on a virtual tour of the college's Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory using a laptop computer. Phillips noted that the involvement of students with industry could result in "educational opportunities as well as job opportunities at the same time."

The college has worked closely with industry leaders through its Engineering Advisory Council to develop partnerships that will ensure the Discovery Learning Initiative's success. Top executives from Storage Technology Corp., Lockheed Martin, IBM and other successful technology companies have been involved in the initiative from its beginning.

"The state's investment in DLC is highly leveraged not just to build the new facility, but also through the ongoing corporate partnerships that are part of the vision," said Assistant Dean for Advancement Enid Ablowitz.

The new center will allow additional student involvement in a thriving research program that includes 15 industry-sponsored research centers in the areas of information technology, materials science, bioengineering, energy and environment, and space sciences. Many undergraduates who have participated in research projects through the college say it has added immensely to the value of their education.

"I was able to combine what I learned in classes with what I learned in the lab to ultimately further my education," said Jay Anseth, a recent graduate of the chemical engineering department, where seven of every 10 undergraduates are involved in research before graduation. Anseth performed liquid crystal research with Associate Professor Christopher Bowman before receiving his bachelor's degree this spring.

"Discovery learning provides undergraduate and graduate students with experience in the collaborative solution of problems with applications guided by specific product or process goals," said Mel Branch, associate dean for research and administration.

Branch said the college initiative will "turn the prevailing undergraduate culture of receivers into a culture of inquirers, a culture in which faculty, graduate students and undergraduates share an adventure of discovery," as recommended in the Fall 1998 Boyer Commission report of the Carnegie Foundation entitled "Reinventing Undergraduate Education."

The Discovery Learning Initiative, which has been in development for more than two years, builds on the success of the college's Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory, an experiential learning laboratory where undergraduates create design solutions to engineering problems.

Since its April 1997 opening, the ITLL has received national attention from professional engineers and educators for providing a dynamic new learning environment for students. The facility has an active outreach program, drawing thousands of K-12 students and teachers to hands-on workshops that teach students engineering concepts at an early age.

Also designed by KCJD Architects, the ITLL won the "Best of 1997" outstanding construction award in Colorado from the Daily Journal's Construction Management Report, the state's leading construction publication. The college plans to build a bridge from the ITLL to the Discovery Learning Center.

A Web site is being created for the Discovery Learning Center design process by the college's Center for Lifelong Learning and Design. Individuals can visit the site, located at to get updates and review progress on the project.