New Science Building Will Enhance Academics

sketch of new science buildingPlanning has resumed for a new science building on the Colby Green to complete the circle of four buildings on the green and to house the Computer Science, Mathematics and Statistics, and Psychology departments. Specialized teaching and research laboratories and numerous spaces for collaboration will improve opportunities for students to conduct research and to work together in groups and with faculty on significant projects. The mathematics faculty offices all will be connected to small rooms for faculty-student interaction and for quiet study.

The numbers of Colby students majoring in computer science and psychology have doubled in recent years. Meanwhile, teaching and learning have become more project-based, requiring research facilities and equipment. According to Associate Professor and Chair of Computer Science Bruce Maxwell, "Students are usually working on programming projects of various kinds, and when they run into an issue, they need to get immediate help from a faculty member or perhaps a student lab assistant. By placing the classroom, student computer area, and a comfortable, open workspace close to faculty offices, the design will enable us to quickly respond to student questions and to keep them moving forward on projects."

Larger and better-equipped laboratory facilities will also enhance faculty and student research and courses, said Maxwell. "For robotics, the building will provide the kind of open but controlled-access space required to undertake projects like robot soccer or remote avatar development. The medium-scale project spaces will provide areas for students to work with mobile device development or to spread out research on computational biology. Those areas will also serve as research group meeting space, something we have not had in our prior spaces."

One research project that will receive a boost from the new facilities involves an autonomous robot capable of successfully navigating the Colby College Museum of Art, so that visitors in other locations can explore the art museum using an iPad. The robot has already been equipped with sonar and laser sensors and a high-definition video camera, and this summer Martha Witick '12 worked with Maxwell to add two-way sound between the robot and the iPad interface. Witick reported their results at the Colby Undergraduate Summer Research Retreat.

Heated with geothermal wells—as part of Colby's plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2015—the building is expected to receive LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

With the eventual move to the new building, the Computer Science and Psychology departments will rejoin the academic quadrangle. The move will also make it possible for the College to convert the second and third floors of the Roberts Building to student housing, enhancing the residential life experience by anchoring Roberts Row and by bringing more students back to campus. The Mathematics and Statistics Department's departure from the Seeley G. Mudd Science Building will increase teaching and research space for other departments in that building.

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