College Of Engineering To Break Ground On Discovery Learning Center Using GPS

Published: May 2, 2000

Editors: College leaders and government representatives will be available at 1:30 p.m., May 12, in the architects/tenants tent at the corner of Regent Drive and Colorado Boulevard to answer questions for media prior to the groundbreaking. An artist’s rendering of the Discovery Learning Center is available by calling Carol Rowe, (303) 492-7426.

The CU-Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science will break ground May 12 on a $15.3 million research and learning laboratory with a demonstration of Global Positioning System technology -- a high-tech approach reflecting the very nature of the Discovery Learning Center project.

The groundbreaking ceremony will begin at 2 p.m., May 12, on the southwest corner of Colorado Avenue and Regent Drive. Speakers will include astronaut-alumnus Ron Sega, U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, along with college and university leaders, and faculty and student representatives. The public is invited to come early to view architectural plans and student projects beginning at 1 p.m., followed by a reception.

Merrick & Co., an Aurora-based mapping and survey firm, partnered with the college and its students to use the Global Positioning System operated by the U.S. Department of Defense to locate the 16 cornerstones of the Discovery Learning Center, which will be visually marked with a ribbon between the points during the groundbreaking. GPS is a system of 27 satellites that transmits radio signals to Earth and, using highly accurate atomic clocks, can locate positions within 2 centimeters accuracy.

In conjunction with the event, Denver-based Space Imaging will release the first photograph of Boulder taken from space and made available to the public.

Construction of the 45,000 gross-square-foot building will address a critical space shortage in the Engineering Center, while enhancing undergraduate and graduate education through partnerships with industry. Construction is expected to be complete by fall 2001.

The Discovery Learning Center will house nine individual laboratories along with videoconferencing and group meeting areas, with a high-tech infrastructure allowing students at all levels – and even those off-campus through distance learning technologies -- to participate in research on the latest challenges facing society. The center is part of a college-wide initiative making research more accessible to students.

Like the college’s Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory, which set the standard for interdisciplinary, hands-on learning in 1997, the DLC is pioneering a new educational approach – a thorough integration of undergraduates into the college’s research mission. Undergraduates bring new perspectives to help solve current research problems, while sharing in the process of discovery, which makes them more capable engineers, said engineering Dean Ross B. Corotis. Corotis led development of the Discovery Learning program plan.

"With the Discovery Learning Initiative, students solve real-world problems, and that is a matchless learning experience," he said.

The facility is being funded through a $7.8 million capital appropriation from the State of Colorado and matching contributions from a host of private donors, including alumni, foundations, corporations and current students. The student-run Engineering Excellence Fund voted to spend $50,000 per year out of its student fee budget to help operate the new facility.

Designed by Klipp Colussy Jenks DuBois Architects of Denver, the Discovery Learning Center will be a multidimensional laboratory that can be reconfigured according to project needs as they come on line.

Initial tenants were selected based on the involvement of undergraduates and graduate students in their research programs, external funding and a commitment to outreach. Initial tenants will be the Biotechnology/Biomaterials Discovery Laboratory, the Center for Drinking Water Optimization, the Center for Lifelong Learning and Design, the Colorado Center for Information Storage, the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, Computing Discovery House, the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program, the Small Communicating Computer Laboratory and the Space Experiments Institute.

Some of the programs will gain additional space with their new laboratories, while others will move from their current facilities in the Engineering Center, freeing up space for use by other college programs.

The Discovery Learning Center will be located at the southwest corner of Regent Drive and Colorado Boulevard, creating a new gateway to the Boulder campus. Students, faculty and visitors will be able to enter the facility from the ITLL second level and from the Engineering Center on the third level.

From the Web site for the Discovery Learning Center at, individuals can view a live video feed of the groundbreaking ceremony or obtain written and visual updates throughout the construction process.