Sens. Christopher Van Hollen and Ben Cardin will speak on behalf of the federal government during the STEM Building grand opening, which starts at 9 a.m. and is open to the general public.
State Sen. George Edwards and Del. Wendell Beitzel will represent the state. Garrett County Commission President Paul Edwards will speak on behalf of the commissioners, with several speakers representing the college, including President Richard Midcap and Chief Academic Officer Qing Yuan.
“This facility — which was only made possible by multi-million-dollar commitments from both the county and the state — provides students in STEM programs and courses with an impressive and well-conceived location for learning,” Midcap said. “I think our students, as well as our faculty, are going to thrive in this facility.”
According to Yuan, Garrett’s graduates will be more prepared for today’s competitive STEM field — either by transferring to a four-year institution to further one’s education, or by entering the workforce directly.
“This long-awaited moment is finally happening,” Yuan said. “I can’t express enough gratitude and appreciation to all the people who made the dream become a reality. This building will provide memorable teaching and learning experiences for both faculty and students at GC.”
The grand opening will include a traditional ribbon-cutting for the facility, along with ribbon-cuttings for specific rooms and spaces named in honor of STEM-related donors. Those naming donations are part of a STEM fundraising campaign, which will also be highlighted as part of the ceremony.
Garrett College’s STEM Building is a renovation and expansion project that includes classrooms, student spaces, faculty offices and laboratories for physics, biology, chemistry, engineering, and robotics. GC faculty who will teach in the STEM Building said they are excited about what the new facility brings to the college.
“The STEM Building is a versatile, spacious facility that is really conducive to learning,” said Carolyn Deniker, a biology professor. “One of the most impressive features is the ease in which traditional lecture space can in a matter of minutes be transformed into a space that encourages small-group activities and interactions.”
Christa Bowser, an associate professor of biology, said the inclusion of prep space missing from previous lab facilities is one of the most practical upgrades that was made.
“It’s going to make teaching more efficient,” said Bowser. “When you have 10 minutes between classes there will no longer be a need to panic — you can prep for the classes ahead of time and be ready to work.”
Linda Griffith, a professor of science, said the new facility provides an impressive learning environment.
“The labs have work areas and equipment specifically designed for working in the 21st century,” Griffith said. “Sitting in one of these classrooms or working in one of these labs will be a great experience.”
Bowser agreed, saying the STEM Building project has resulted in space that is appropriate to its mission.
“That space looks and operates like a modern collegiate space,” she said.
While practical, the STEM project comes along with some interesting “bells and whistles,” according to faculty. An Anatomage 3-D virtual dissection table, made possible in part by a matching grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, is one of those state-of-the-art upgrades. The table includes four digital human cadavers, providing a realism not possible with typical dissection aids.
Garrett College is currently the only higher education institution in Maryland to house the cutting-edge equipment to aid in instruction and student learning.
“Instead of some plastic, idealized anatomical display, you are seeing real human digital images with realistic anomalies that enhance the learning experience,” said Deniker, who noted the 3-D virtual dissection table will be one of the featured faculty demonstrations as part of the grand opening
Bowser said the building design “encourages students to engage with one another and with faculty.” She indicated the inclusion of multiple student spaces and study rooms should quickly make the STEM Building one of the students’ favorite campus buildings.
While the morning focus is on the college, the STEM Building will host a community event immediately following the grand opening. The college is hosting local robotics teams for the First Tech Challenge 2019 worldwide robotics game release, which takes place at noon. Garrett College will also be hosting a state FTC qualifier in January.
The ceremonies will take place in Room 201 of the STEM Building, but the event will also be streamed live in other STEM classrooms in case of an overflow audience. Anyone who has an interest in the event, but cannot attend, may view it streaming live on the college website at www.garrettcollege.edu/stem