By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel
If 30 Marquette University engineering students bounce up and down on their classroom floor, they have no way of knowing how much stress they put on the floor beams.
Soon, that will change.
The first 115,000-square-foot phase of the school's Engineering Hall opened to students this week. By the end of the semester, students will be able to touch a plasma screen in the commons area to see the stress on the beams beneath their bouncing feet. That data will be transmitted from some of the 120 sensors welded onto beams and other locations around the building.
Students also will be able to examine the different configurations of I-beams on each floor, conduct experiments on a green roof with solar panels, and use the molding machines, lasers and other equipment in the shop.
"It's a platform for innovation rather than a building," said Robert Bishop, dean of the engineering school. "Really, the students are only limited by their imaginations."
Bishop and others at Marquette are hailing Engineering Hall as a place where students can collaborate and understand how the building was put together - and where researchers can do work that was previously difficult, if not impossible, in the traditional classrooms of the old engineering building.