Abhi Mukherjee
The Silhouette

For engineering students, a new building on campus may make experiential learning more accessible, now that a full $8.5 million in funding has been raised. But students currently paying into the $50 per year levy will not see the building completed until 2016.

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The Engineering Center for Experiential Learning, or ExCEL for short, was an initiative that was introduced during the 2011-2012 academic year and voted on to go ahead in March 2012.

The 25,000 square-foot building was able to complete its funding in September 2013, upon receiving a $3 million contribution from Hatch, a Canadian-based Engineering giant.

The University has said the construction is set to begin in spring 2015, to be completed in 2016.

The initiative was to introduce a new building on campus, located beside John Hodgins Engineering Building, to house workspaces for engineering student clubs and societies, design studios, display spaces and student lounge areas. The project’s main mandate was to enhance the learning experience for the students in the Faculty of Engineering through experiential learning and collaboration.

But building a new structure on campus is no small project, and the ExCEL building has been no exception.

Roughly a quarter of the $8.5 million required will come from the students in the Faculty of Engineering, following a student referendum vote that decided a $50 levy per engineering student per year would be acceptable.

Starting this academic year, undergraduate students in the Faculty of Engineering will pay a $50 levy that goes towards the development of the project. The levies will continue to be collected over 10 years.

“Right now we are in the process of hiring the different engineering and construction people. Ideally it takes a year and a half to plan and design a project and another year and a half to execute it,” said Ben Kinsella, VP Academic for the McMaster Engineering Society.

“But since we have already contributed so much in terms of the design of the building, we are hopeful that the project will be complete sooner than the estimated 3 years,” Kinsella said.

The layout of the building is currently under rough speculation and subject to change once an architect is hired. Kelton Friedrich, project coordinator for the ExCEL building, provided some preliminary numbers.

The building would have four floors. The first floor would be 6000 sq. ft., a third of which would most likely be a large project storage area, for projects such as the Solar Car and Mini Baja. The remaining 4000 sq. ft. on the first floor may be an assembly area, with movable tables for smaller projects. This assembly area could be used by clubs, teams and for capstone projects.

The second floor has been proposed to be 6000 sq. ft. in size.  About a quarter pf the second floor would be for an Engineering Student Lounge. Two-thirds of the second floor has been proposed for group meeting rooms and offices, club spaces, building support staff offices and MES offices.

The third floor will be 6000 sq. ft. in size. About a third would be allocated for storage lockers and the remaining two-thirds would be used as group meeting rooms and an engineering design studio. The fourth floor will be used as a “mechanical space”, according to Friedrich.

The building will also have a slanted roof that will be used for solar cell panels; the building is to be designed as being sustainable and energy efficient.

Friedrich and Kinsella, two people on the project’s steering committee, help to set goals by recommending how to allocate the resources provided.

“ETB was originally intended to be the ExCEL building. I am really happy that we are finally making it into a reality now,” said Kinsella.

Aside from project leaders, engineering students have differing opinions on how their money is being invested

“We are just paying for the future undergrads. The more reputation the MES has, the better reputation the program will also have and employers are only going to look at the reputation of the school at the time they are hiring you,” said Chris Ko, a level III software engineering and game design student.

“ExCEL will benefit all engineering students as it will be home to student clubs and societies, design teams and more. I believe it is a great idea and it will enhance our learning experience,” said Labeeb Hussain, a mechanical engineering student.

“As a student who has been heavily involved with the car teams on campus, I can tell you lack of workspace is a huge concern. The workspace we get is often adapted from previous uses, and was never intended for car teams,” said David Drake.

“[A new building] means that we can build our cars better. We can provide more benefit to students and we can better represent our school at our competitions. I am pro ExCEL for this reason.”

“It will help people learn and compete better on a global level,” said Mohit Sharma, a fourth-year electrical engineering and management student.

Graphic by Ben Barrett-Forrest / Multimedia Editor

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