WATERLOO | Buchanan Hall had a new façade when students returned to Hawkeye Community College this fall.

But the glass walls and gray and black steel panels are only a small part of the $3.78 million expansion and remodeling project that has transformed the 44-year-old building, one of the first three constructed on campus.

The 11,536 square foot addition includes a meeting room and office space along with high-tech classrooms.

“We basically wrapped the new addition around the south and west sides of the existing Buchanan Hall,” said Ray Beets, dean of applied sciences and engineering technology programs.

Another 8,261 square feet remodeled in the original building provide space for classrooms focused on teaching students how to program computerized machines used in advanced manufacturing.

Collectively, the new and remodeled areas have been named the Advanced Technology and Business Center. Floor-to-ceiling windows, comfortable meeting spaces and updated classrooms give a different feel to the building.

“It’s meant to be a business look, because we want our business partners to come to campus,” said Hawkeye President Linda Allen. The partners can see modern facilities that can meet their employee training needs. Classroom spaces are available in the center for a wide range of training purposes.

A large meeting room that is part of the addition stands at the southwest corner of the building. Four classrooms also were added, including a larger lecture hall with tiered seating. Open areas with tables and seating where students can meet informally are available as well.

New offices were included in the addition while other existing office space was remodeled to make room for trainers and college instructors. Four existing classrooms were remodeled.

Beets said those involved in company training sessions and college credit students are both using the new and remodeled classrooms. “Their whole purpose was to really blend business training with the credit resources and use our resources much more efficiently,” he said.

An advanced manufacturing classroom contains simulators such as virtual computer numerical control machines and virtual welders. A lab area has actual CNC machines and welding equipment. Workers program CNC machines in the operation of tools such as mills and lathes.

Hawkeye had some of the simulators and other equipment before updating the building, said Allen. “But with the technology changes, we have to upgrade the software or make changes.” She noted that a 3D printer in the engineering lab is new.

Luis Garcia, a Hawkeye sophomore from Cedar Falls, was using the virtual CNC machine during class earlier this week. He said the simulator allows for step-by-step learning.

The control panel on the simulator is similar to the one on the CNC machine. “Only, with this one there’s no risk of crashing the machine,” said Garcia. “It’s just a nice, safe environment where we don’t have to worry about anything and we can learn from our mistakes and go on from there.”

Beets noted that the amount of practice students need would quickly wear out the CNC machines, which have a cost of $60,000 to $80,000.

“They can do a lot of their practice on these,” he said in reference to the simulators. “They really get used to all the switches and controls.” At about $2,000 each, simulators are much more affordable to replace when worn out.

Officials are looking at plans for the portions of Buchanan Hall that were not remodeled and hope to make upgrades at a later point.

“This first part’s just Phase I,” said Beets. “It’s a little more than half the building.”

Allen noted that $2 million of project’s cost was paid for with proceeds from Hawkeye’s property tax-backed $25 million bond issue. Those were the last remaining funds from the bond, originally approved by voters in 2003.

“That bond gave the college many, many options to better serve our communities, both with infrastructure as well as programming,” said Allen.

“Those revenues allowed us to build the outreach centers,” she noted, including the Western Outreach Center in Grundy County. “We added the Black Hawk (Hall) addition; we updated and upgraded Bremer Hall.” The Brock Student Center and the Health Education and Services Center were also built largely with bond dollars. “There were lots of on-campus expansions and additions.”

The funding was used to expand the Independence Center and upgrade the Cedar Falls Center, as well.

Allen said Hawkeye is “seeking more and more partnerships” that could allow for expanded programming without further building construction. But she doesn’t rule out putting another bond referendum before voters once the current one ends.

“We always have to look at additional funding for our facilities, for the needs we have at the college,” she said. “When we think about the new program needs, the new training needs, we have to keep all options on the top of the mind.”

Education reporter for the Courier

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