New School of Computer and Engineering Research Center coming to campus

UMKC will soon be home to the new Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise and Research Center, set to open in 2020. The 57,800-square-foot research center will be located next to Flarsheim Hall as an addition to the School of Computing and Engineering.

The estimated cost for the project is $32 million.

Chancellor C.Mauli Agrawal, along with UM President Mun Choi and Dean Kevin Truman, unveiled the building and its features at the Student Union Theater last week.

“It celebrates our commitment to the important Missouri compacts of student success and research that also leads to economic development in the state,” said Choi. “UMKC is the only public research university that’s located in the Kansas City metro area.”

UMKC Vice Provost and Dean of the School of Computer of Engineering Kevin Truman went through the research center’s features.

The first floor will have an ISO 6 and 7 Cleanroom, an important space that will enable the expansion of bio-medical collaboration with the health and sciences campus. It will also help develop technologies in areas such as early breast cancer detection and many other health-related biodevices, biomaterials and procedures.

“The first floor will also include the much-needed student team space,” added Truman. “They need a place to plan and design and build those amazing different devices.”

The second floor is where the Free Enterprise Center (FEC) will be located.

“It’s a one-stop shop with equipment to visualize and build prototypes and explore the next-generation of new ideas,” said Truman. It will also have industrial and research-grade 3D printing equipment.

Truman described the third floor as “all about preparing the workforce of the future.”

In it will be a high-performance computer center for “Big Data”, IT, cyber security and software engineering. It is also where the center for “Big Learning” will be located. This center is a national science foundation-funded partnership among a team of faculty from UMKC and three other universities.

“The third-floor will also have our (two-story) motion capture lab,” Truman said. “This facility, coupled with the AR/VR equipment, will help us continue our work and training future surgeons using a virtual platform in improving protocols for the prevention of arthritis and building better prosthetic knees, as well as advanced biometric devices.”

The virtual reality and augmented reality equipment cost around $3 million.

The fourth-floor features power electronics, smart grid and an electromagnetics lab alongside a renewable energy lab and more. The building is topped off with a renewable energy-focused sky deck. It will feature solar panels and wind turbines that collect data 24/7.

Chancellor Agrawal with 3D rendering of what the research center will look like.

“I’m proud of the School of Computing and Engineering, and of the leadership role it has taken STEM education and research, not only here in the greater Kansas City area, but throughout the region,” said Chancellor Agrawal.

“The school’s new education research center will increase with classroom space and faculty research capabilities, both of which play a key role in maintaining and enhancing Kansas City’s and Missouri’s capability to compete in the 21st century global economy.”

To demonstrate the unique advanced tools the building will provide, Chancellor Agrawal had someone showcase a flying drone in the middle of the theater.

“You may not know this, but UMKC is a leader in drone technology,” said Agrawal. “This drone, and others like it, represent a teaching tool of the 21st century classroom.”

The chancellor also took a moment to recognize the efforts that engineering students put into projects they presented moments before the unveiling took place.

“I am constantly blown away by the creativity of our students,” said Agrawal.

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