Friday, December 3, 2021
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UMKC unveils new $32 million Engineering and Computing building

UMKC officially opened the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise and Research Center to the public earlier this month. The $32 million building features innovative equipment and facilities that students, faculty and community members can use.

Located on Rockhill Road and 51st Street, the center was already available to faculty and engineering students as of last year. This month’s grand opening marks the public invitation for the Kansas City community to visit the space.

“We are so excited to finally have the opportunity to showcase our state-of-the-art facility,” said Kevin Truman, dean of the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering. “This project has been a long process and had been discussed for many years before ground was even broken.”

Constructed with the help of over 25 donors, the building is intended to create more opportunities for students and faculty to collaborate with community members.

“The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise and Research Center is all about community,” UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal said at the opening. “It is an exemplary research facility not just for UMKC, but for all of Kansas City.”

The 57,800-square foot building has a variety of high-tech workspaces and technology for students and community members to use. Some of the major amenities include: 

  • A 3D printing lab.
  • A two-story drone testing bay.
  • Student study spaces.
  • Augmented and virtual reality equipment valued at around $3 million.
  • A flight simulator approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • High-performance computing and analytic software.
  • A student team fabrication shop for students to collaborate on projects.

All UMKC students have access to any of these facilities, though some will require specialized training before students can use them.

The public can also access the majority of the center’s facilities, though some spaces will be restricted to student and faculty use. Located on the first floor, the Burns and McDonnell Student Teams Fabrication shop is one of the resources available only to students. 

The area is set to become the primary spot for the university’s Baja Racing Team. The UMKC student organization takes part in the Society of Automotive Engineers’ annual competition, competing against engineering students from across the world to build an off-road vehicle. 

The team, which has placed as high as 11 out of 116 teams in past competitions, will now have dedicated workspace instead of the empty classrooms and garages they have used in the past. The shop also has an assortment of equipment available for the team’s use, including a laser jet cutter and a horizontal band saw. 

“Having access to this new space really changes the game in terms of our ability to compete,” UMKC Baja Racing Vice President Clayton Morgan told UMKC Today.

cbskbf@umsystem.edu

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