Published Date Written by Dan Miller
Penn State Harrisburg has cut the ribbon on a state-of-the-art educational center where the next generation of engineers and tinkerers can see how things work.
Want to know what lies behind the walls of a new building? Walking down the halls of the new Educational Activities Building, you see exposed construction beams and other mechanical systems – the actual skeleton and guts of the building itself.
Take a peek inside one of the labs, and you see cement being made inside a big mixer in the middle of the room.
Just outside the building, students can see the effects of stormwater runoff on three different kinds of pavement surfaces located side by side.
There’s a clear emphasis on hands-on learning. And while learning is serious business at Penn State Harrisburg, this also just seems like a fun place to be. The sense of play is reinforced by an upstairs multi-purpose room is devoted to the performing arts.
The new building is actually a 51,000-square-foot addition to a structure that was first constructed as an Army barracks in 1959, Penn State Harrisburg Chancellor Mukund Kulkarni told a crowd gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, Aug. 20 at the facility.
“We have long overgrown this building,” Kulkarni noted. Students began using the building on Monday, Aug. 25.
Student enrollment at Penn State Harrisburg is booming. The campus has grown from 3,239 students in fall 2001 to 4,441 as of fall 2013 – an increase of 1,202 students and roughly 100 each year.
Penn State expects the campus will continue growing at the rate of 100 students a year for at least the next five years, according to college spokeswoman Kalisha Ann Devan.
The classrooms in the new EAB are larger than anywhere else on campus. Until now, the campus had to cobble together three classrooms to make one equal in size to the three 120-seat classrooms found in the EAB, said Penn State Harrisburg spokeswoman Yvonne Harhigh. A fourth classroom has 56 seats.
Yet the building feels like one big seamless classroom. The second-floor hallways are lined with vast stretches of whiteboard, to encourage collaborative learning and group work outside the classroom setting.
Across the hall, ground to ceiling windows maximize the use of natural light to reduce energy costs.
The windows are among many features of the new building that accentuate sustainability.
Sensors adjust artificial light inside the building based on how much natural light is coming in from outside. Lighting in the rooms only comes on when people are in the space.
Rain water will be collected for use in the labs, such as for making concrete forms. The rain water will also water the plants and landscaping around the building, said Chuck Garber, facilities supervisor for Penn State Harrisburg. The building is powered by natural gas.
The benches scattered throughout the building are made of wood from the trees that were removed from the site during construction.
The $19.5 million addition was designed by the firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of Wilkes-Barre and constructed by Reynolds Construction Management of Harrisburg.
To Kulkarni, the building is “amazing,” but only a sign of things to come as the campus copes with its unprecedented growth. Next: the Student Enrichment Building, to go up across the street from the EAB. The university hopes to open that building by the fall of 2016.
“Remember, this is not the last building. We have to build some more,” Kulkarni told those gathered.