After reaching max capacity and 20 years of planning, the Lewis Science Center is underway on its 50,000-square-foot addition that will bring new research and study opportunities to the physics and biology departments.
The addition will add new physics education research labs, an optics lab, an upper-level studies lab and a biophysics lab. “The rooms will be designed to be flexible,” Physics Associate Professor and Chair Carl Frederickson said. “It has power sources above the students, we can move everything around the room easier. Theoretically, we could be in a group one day and throwing balls around the room the next. We’re trying to find a way to make physics education easier for students and we’ve found that an active classroom helps.”
The building will also include a digital state-of-the-art planetarium that will replace the current one which runs on a gear and pulley system. “Instead of only being able to see our universe, we can look at Mars and other planets,” Frederickson said. “We could even bring in elementary students and have them look at the details of an ant’s anatomy or what it looks like when a volcano explodes. Anywhere that science is familiar with, we should be able to look at it.”
The planetarium will have two projectors and 90 seats in comparison to the current planetarium’s 60 seats. The current planetarium, among several other parts of the building, have simply become outdated. “[The] building was built in the ‘60s and it’s just not able to keep up anymore,” Frederickson said. “We’re at max capacity right now. If we wanted to hire a new teacher or start a new program, we simply wouldn’t have the room.”
The new structure will be three stories tall and LEED certified meaning that it is up to date in environmentally safe technology. The construction, beginning with the groundbreaking on May 1 of this year, has carried onto Bruce Street and forced a traffic block on part of the street. The $17.5 million construction will require a student fee of $3.50 per credit hour was allocated in order to pay off the 13.5 million dollar bond, along with 4 million being taken from already existing University Capital Reserves.
Conway Corporation will donate $3 million to the construction over the next three years. “We want to show our support to education, specifically in Conway,” Conway Corporation’s Board of Directors Chairman Bill Adisson said. “We know how important UCA is to the community.”
The current building’s roof was recently remodeled, but what will happen with the lecture halls after the new building opens is still undecided.
“There’s talk that we may renovate the current building as well,” Frederickson said. “Which, if we have brand new labs in the new structure, it would make sense to renovate the outdated lecture halls we have now.”