Columbia College science center houses new equipment, technology for hands-on learning

Thursday, September 26, 2013 | 8:28 p.m. CDT; updated 8:57 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 26, 2013
Columbia College's Brouder Science Center held its dedication Thursday. Following the dedication, students and teachers performed scientific demonstrations in the new building.

COLUMBIA — When Michael Himmel, a retired Columbia Police Department detective, was given a budget to buy equipment for a forensics lab in the new Brouder Science Center, he chose items used by law enforcement.

"We’ve got a lab photo table, and if students go to work for the Highway Patrol crime lab in Kansas City, it’s the same table," said Himmel, an adjunct professor of forensics at Columbia College. "They’ll get to use it before they ever get a job."

City officials and college faculty and students gathered late Thursday morning for the center's dedication, ribbon-cutting and tours of the building at 705 Range Line St.

The center, which has been open since the fall semester began in August, is named for retired Columbia College President Emeritus Gerald Brouder and his wife, Bonnie. Gerald Brouder said that from the time he became president in 1995, he knew renovating the science department was a priority.

"Generating a list of priorities turned out to be easier than finding the funds to address them," Gerald Brouder said. "It was the beginning of a somewhat difficult but absolutely rewarding journey that has brought us here today."

A goal of the Tradition Meets Tomorrow Campaign, the science center now houses the physical and biological sciences, nursing and forensics departments.

"Columbia College is built on a reinforced foundation of the arts and sciences," Gerald Brouder said. "This building will serve as a beacon to those who will choose to experience a true and challenging curriculum."

Other features of the center:

  •  Five classrooms, five general labs, eight advanced labs, 18 faculty offices and a lecture hall that seats 126 people.

  • A nursing simulation lab, which includes two lifelike robots, called SimMan, that help students learn procedures used in hospitals.

  • A nursing classroom for the Columbia College Nursing Network, which allows an instructor at the main campus to instruct students at the Lake of the Ozarks campus and vice versa via video technology that simulates a Skype session. Students can ask questions and will clearly be heard, with little delay. The instructor can zoom in on a student for a better view to hear questions about demonstrations.
  • Common areas for student lounging and idea sharing. Whiteboards and large bulletin boards are placed throughout the halls and common areas.
  • Other rooms including a glass-washing room and a science-prep room.

The center has that new building smell and feel, and students are reveling in it.

Danielle Bandy, senior and Science Club president, said the old science facility might not have been ideal, but it was adequate. Now, they have more than they have ever asked for.

"I always loved what I was doing," she said. "Now, I love where I am doing it."

Forensics lab has space, technology

The new forensics lab includes instruction and equipment for crime scene investigations, crime scene photography, shooting reconstructions, bloodstain positioning, bullet trajectory and fingerprinting.

The former science building never really had a forensics lab; it was just a classroom in the basement, said Peter Bingham, a senior who studies forensic science.

"It’s nice to essentially have our lab to do our own stuff where we don’t have to worry about cleaning up in a hurry for other classes," Bingham said. "Because the room is locked and no one else can get into it, we have the ability to just leave stuff out and be able to go in and get started right away. We get a lot more hands-on experience, so hopefully it will make it easier to get a job."

Forensic science students now have the technology that enables them to do their work, especially in the forensics photography class.

"They have a lot more flashlights that are suited to be able to pick up chemical fingerprints, to be able to see blood under conditions you wouldn’t normally be able to," he said.

The forensics department also has lasers for its shooting incident reconstruction class to determine the trajectory of the bullet.

Nursing lab mirrors real life

The nursing simulation lab is just as hands-on.

Associate professor of nursing Joyce Gentry explained how she can make the lab's SimMan, a lifelike robot that simulates a hospital patient, do things such as cough and have different heart rhythms so students can learn how to respond and decide the best way to treat the simulation patient.

"This is just a wonderful learning tool for students," Gentry said. "It gives them the opportunity to see what happens to patients without actually hurting a real patient."

For example, students will respond by giving the patient defibrillation if they think he needs it, Gentry said.

"It has really improved their critical thinking skills, their ability to think on their feet," she said.

'Eat, live, breathe science'

Professors also have found that interacting with students is easier with faculty offices and classrooms in the same building.

"The facility really allows me to be in contact with my students throughout the day," assistant professor of biology Kent Strodtman said. "My student researchers have access to me, I have access to them, and we both have access to the labs constantly. So I can be in my office, having office hours, and they just walk up the stairs if they need to ask a question."

It was a theme repeated by people at the dedication: Every science department at the college is housed in the new center, so science students now have everything they need in one building.

"They get to eat, live, breathe science," Strodtman said.

And before people enter the building, they will encounter a 12-foot stainless steel sculpture called "Genome." The artist's statement from sculptor Larry Young describes it this way:

"'Genome' combines the DNA spiral and the human form to symbolize man's mapping of the human genome, unlocking many secrets of life."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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