Pitt-Bradford Breaks Ground on Engineering, Technology Building

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Officials from the University of Pittsburgh, government and contractors turn over the first ceremonial shovels of dirt to break ground for the Bradford campus’s new engineering and information technologies building. (Photo by Sydney Herdle)

BRADFORD, Pa. – The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford broke ground on a new academic building Friday that officials heralded as a “game changer” for the region.

“It’s going to spark the interest of students and be a transformative project for the whole region,” Rick Esch, interim president, said of the building, which will be home to the university’s current computer information systems and technology and energy science and technology programs as well as two new engineering technology programs.

Pennsylvania Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) echoed Esch’s sentiment.

“This is exciting for the region,” Causer said. “This is a game changer. I was happy to support this project.”

Donors unveil a sign at the site of construction for Pitt-Bradford’s new engineering and information technologies building. (Photo by Syd Herdle)

Causer’s efforts secured $6 million in state funds toward the $24.5 million, 40,000-square foot Engineering and Information Technologies building.

Pitt Provost Dr. Ann Cudd, who also also spoke at the event, announced that two new bachelor degree programs in mechanical engineering technology and energy engineering technology have received university approval, and Pitt-Bradford can begin recruiting students into those new programs, which will occupy the building when it opens next year.

“These students will have the very finest learning environment to reach their learning ambitions,” she said.

Chris Napoleon, a Pitt-Bradford engineering alumnus who owns Napoleon Engineering Services in nearby Olean, N.Y., is looking forward to hiring interns for his business from the new program.

Napoleon helped review the new programs’ curricula, which were designed by Dr. Matt Kropf, associate professor of natural sciences and director of the ARG/Harry R. Halloran Jr. Energy Institute.

His company, which makes high-grade custom bearings for the aerospace industry, also supported the building financially.

“It’s easy to get behind a program like this that’s so important for our business,” he said.

Designed by HED of Michigan, the new building will be the center of technology and innovation on campus and across the region, chock full of rapid prototyping machines, oscilloscopes, engineering lab stations and more to provide hands-on technical learning for students.

At the heart of the building is a two-story atrium with collaborative space to enhance visibility, accessibility, interactions, and team building. A cantilevered, metal-clad faculty office “bar” will float above a mostly glass-enclosed first floor with large common area, providing a dynamic north edge for the newly formed quad. Strategic integration of glass reduces energy usage while preserving access to daylight and views. Exposed ceilings in the building’s centralized common area intentionally put building systems on display.

Rycon Construction Inc. of Pittsburgh will be the general contractor. Rycon previously built Sarah B. Dorn Residence Hall on campus. Allan Swanson of Bradford, who recently retired as owner of his own general construction business, Carl E. Swanson and Sons, will oversee the construction.

In the new building, engineering technology students will have hands-on labs and study applied mathematics. They will create on their own in a maker space full of milling machines, lathes, welding equipment, metal cutting technology and 3-D printers and scanners.

Students in mechanical engineering technology will be able to design and build a prototype for an industrial process, then test them in labs for fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, strength of materials and electrical circuits.

Energy engineering technology students will learn about geology, combustion, automation and sensors, biofuels, wood chemistry, wind and solar power, and the chemistry of petroleum and natural gas.

Graduates with engineering technology degrees will be prepared to apply for and perform the same jobs as those with engineering degrees since they will take similar classes in math and engineering. However, the teaching and learning in the technology programs will be focused on practical applications.

The new four-year programs will provide enhanced opportunities in the way of lab and testing equipment to continue engineering students’ hands-on experience.

Labs in the new building include:

– A strength and materials lab

– A fluid dynamics lab with small hydro tunnel to test designs

– A circuit lab with bench space for soldering, generators and analog/digital trainer desktop kits

– A measurements lab for the energy engineering and energy science and technology programs where students will be able to work with sensors and automation

– A machine shop for first-year engineering students with computer-controlled cutters and plasma cutters used to cut through electrically conducive materials

– A maker space with 3-D printing for rapid prototyping to be shared with the information technology program.

The content of a final lab is yet to be determined, but it will be a place where students can work on projects for competitions such as robotics, drones, and recreational or solar cars. The labs where students will be creating and fabricating are connected to each other to make working on projects easier.