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Grand Opening commemorates new STEM Building

Virginia Western Community College welcomed community members from across the Roanoke Region to celebrate the Grand Opening of its new $37-million STEM Building on Thursday. More than 300 attendees heard from local elected officials, business leaders and students about the impact the new facility will have on growing the local economy through collaboration and innovation.

“This building will drive our region forward in the fields of STEM and health professions,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “It will be the home of innovation and the next bright idea. It will help the Commonwealth of Virginia continue to be one of the best places in America to do business.”

The Grand Opening event had a student-focused feel as recent alumni introduced each of the speakers and shared details on how their STEM education at Virginia Western has impacted them. Following the speakers’ portion, faculty members showed attendees the facility, labs and the cutting-edge new equipment.

“To me, the building is about preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet,” said Amy White, Dean of STEM. “The space allows them to focus on critical thinking, problem-solving skills and communication skills. It’s not about the equipment. It’s not about the buttons on the machine. It’s about why the buttons are on the machine, and how the students can solve problems using the latest and greatest equipment.”

Speakers such as Delegate Terry Austin, Roanoke City Mayor Sherman Lea, Roanoke businessman W. Heywood Fralin and Richard Farthing of Virginia’s Community Colleges spoke about how investment in higher education, and STEM in particular, will continue to drive the region’s economic growth.

“One of the most important players in this [region’s] movement to a knowledge-based economy is Virginia Western Community College. Its growth not only in size but also in stature has been remarkable and this growth has focused on quality,” said Fralin, a member of the Virginia Western Educational Foundation Board of Directors. “There has been a recent focus on recruiting top business leaders throughout the region to serve on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, and [the college’s recent] accomplishments are a result of the leadership of the outstanding administration of Virginia Western Community College and the Foundation Board of Directors which has included visionaries like the late Charles Steger. Together they have produced for this region one of the best community colleges in the entire system. Needless to say, we are proud of Virginia Western Community College.”

Programs that will be located in the STEM Building include Mechatronics, Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, Biotechnology, Physics and Mathematics. New cutting-edge equipment includes a phase contrast fluorescence microscope, a multiphoton confocal microscope, a scanning electron microscope, four new spectrometers, process control units, a 5 axis CNC milling machine, a 24-foot water flume and a collaborative robot.

To view photos from the Grand Opening, visit: https://www.facebook.com/pg/VirginiaWestern/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10156162237936534.

To find out more about Virginia Western’s STEM programs, visit www.virginiawestern.edu/academics or call (855) 874-6690.

Join us for free talk from national STEM speaker Deanne Bell

Virginia Western Community College invites the public to attend a free talk on Wednesday, Oct. 9 by national expert Deanne Bell on science and technology careers that are far from boring. From her work with NASA to travels in Tibet, Bell has had experiences in a wide range of innovative and STEM careers.

Bell is an engineer, television host and the founder of FutureEngineers.org, a platform that hosts national invitation challenges for students. She received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis.

Prior to becoming a TV host, Deanne designed opto-mechanics for military aircraft sensors and worked as a senior application engineer for a CAD software startup in Boston.

In 2006, Deanne took her first job in television as a co-host for the Peabody Award winning children’s series, Design Squad. She is currently a co-host for CNBC’s ‘Make Me a Millionaire Inventor, and her previous hosting credits include ESPN, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and DIY Network.

In 2014, Deanne founded Future Engineers, which hosted its inaugural challenge in partnership with NASA and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation. Students were asked to create a digital 3D model of a space tool, and the winning design is being 3D printed aboard the International Space Station.

WHAT: STEM talk by national expert Deanne Bell

WHEN: 1 p.m., Wednesday, October 9

WHERE: Whitman Theater, Virginia Western Campus (Directions and parking)

COST: Free and open to the public

Virginia Western opens new STEM Building

Virginia Western Community College opened its new STEM Building to students on Monday, August 26, at a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil the state-of-the-art equipment and contemporary classrooms with a focus on collaboration. The new 72,000-square-foot facility, dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, is the largest on campus and was designed with input from faculty and staff to best serve the region’s growing needs.

“This amazing new facility is the result of many years of dedicated, hard work and forethought,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “We expect it to be a destination for students and industry partners who are interested in getting ahead in the region’s growing, STEM-focused economy. It is designed to adapt to our community’s needs and we are so thrilled to show it off.”

Classrooms in the $37 million facility were designed to be open and flexible, allowing students to seamlessly move from a lecture-style setting to group work. White boards cover the walls along with 80-inch TV monitors to replace the traditional chalkboards and projectors that were present in the School of STEM’s former home, Anderson Hall, which was more than 50 years old.

“We want to prepare students for careers that are available now and those that don’t even exist yet,” said Amy White, Dean of STEM. “They will have opportunities to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will serve them well in whichever field they pursue. Hands-on learning is central to all that we do, and this facility will encourage that in every discipline. Our hope is that this building will not only educate, but also motivate and inspire all the students we serve.”

Programs that will be located in the STEM Building include Mechatronics, Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, Biotechnology, Physics and Mathematics. New cutting-edge equipment includes a phase contrast fluorescence microscope, a multiphoton confocal microscope, a scanning electron microscope, four new spectrometers, process control units, a 5 axis CNC milling machine, a 24-foot water flume and a collaborative robot.

A new grassy courtyard between the STEM Building, the Strauss Family Student Life Center and Webber Hall will be a hive for student activity. It is designed to blend beautifully with the Colonial Avenue streetscape, which is slated to be complete before the end of 2019.

To find out more about Virginia Western’s STEM programs, visit www.virginiawestern.edu/academics or call (855) 874-6690.

By the Numbers
• 44 miles of communication cable
• 217 computers
• 103 TV monitors
• 70 white boards
• 12 wet labs (an increase of 5 on campus)

New Equipment
• Phase Contrast Fluorescence Microscope: Detects the presence of materials, such as protein, and identifies the location of materials in relation to other structures in a cell or tissue.
• Multiphoton Confocal Microscope: Provides high-resolution fluorescent imaging of cellular processes or other materials and generates 3D images of structures using laser scanning to improve resolution.
• Scanning Electron Microscope: Provides visibility at 250 to 500 times the magnification of most light microscopes, with focused electron beams to show detailed features of samples and composition and topography information. This microscope allows visualization at the nanometer level.
• 4 new spectrometers: Used in analytical chemistry to determine information about an object or substance, these sophisticated instruments employ a variety of methods to identify and characterize materials and molecules.
• Collaborative Robot: Much like industrial robots that are common in manufacturing, the largest difference between the two is that collaborative robots are designed to safely work with human operators rather than in lieu of operators. The robot can easily be taught new processes and tasks as operators or operations change, without safety concerns.

Top 5 STEM programs of study at Virginia Western
• Mechatronics
• Engineering
• Biology/Chemistry/Biotechnology
• Computer Science and Information Technology
• Health Sciences