STEM Center opens its doors in May

On Friday, May 7, Tech will unleash its latest six million dollar creation just one day before commencement. Over the past year and a half, Tech has been working diligently on their new state of the art learning facility. The 25,000+ sq/ft building is the new Ray Morris Hall/ Millard Oakley STEM Center. The building will host a variety of new technology and resources for students. The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Center will be used to conduct class and educational research.

“Our goal is to eventually have all the sciences taught in the STEM Center just pertaining to education majors that study conceptual sciences and we strive to see how we can improve teaching of these subjects and how can we improve the learning of these subjects,” said Glenn Binkley, assistant director of Facilities and Business Services.

That is precisely what the entire purpose of the STEM Center was based on. Each classroom is set up much like a typical science lab at Tech but is outfitted with a few new twists. The previously called “lab,” is now called a learning studio, and is outfitted with a camera with the ability to pan, tilt, and zoom.

The cameras are used to capture the reaction of students as they respond to different stimuli. Their reactions will be monitored at all times by staff that will record and document how audio visual, internet clips, etc. can benefit the learning environment. These new practices will be available for all professors so that they may steer themselves away from the straight lecture format.

“We can cast the net broadly to improve the teaching and learning methods of students in order to utilize this new tool and help make better students and in turn prepare better engineers,” Binkley said.

The STEM Center will also serve as a civic center for nighttime activities such as meetings and food catering and will provide computers for anyone to use. The STEM Center is designed to keep intact lifelong learning for all students.

“We don’t want to cut off learning for our current college students so they are more than welcome to use our new facility for meetings and to just come and hangout,” Binkley said. “Our new center is designed to cater to anyone from pre-k all the way through 98.”

The STEM Center will also be the home to one of the most unique experiences in the Upper Cumberland. It will host a virtual theater that has software that will be very similar to a planetarium, which the surrounding community does not currently have access to, unless they drive to the Knoxville, Tenn. area.

“We want students who come to the STEM Center, from the time they step foot in the building to say, ‘WOW!’ because chances are they will be learning,” said Binkley.

The glaring issue whenever a cutting edge building pops up on campus is always where the money for such an extravagant, new addition came from? The entire STEM Center was privately funded from many donors such as NASA, HERSA, USDA and private donors.

The three federal agencies donated the majority of the funds, Millard Oakley donated around $2 million, Ray Morris, who the building is named after, donated $1 million, and several other donors made smaller contributions so that no tax dollars were used in the creation and outfitting of the STEM Center.

For more information about the grand opening of Ray Morris Hall and the Millard Oakley STEM Center visit: http://www.tntech.edu/stem/grand-opening/