Ground broken for Discovery Learning Complex

Onlookers watch as ground is broken on the new engineering building.

With a wave of a Marquette flag by College of Engineering Dean Stan Jaskolski, an excavator lifted dirt from the corner of 16th Street and Wisconsin Avenue Friday morning signaling the start of construction on the Discovery Learning Complex.

Students, faculty, alumni and donors gathered in Parking Lot N near the construction site to mark the beginning of a $35 million first phase of the new College of Engineering facility. The five-story, 115,000-square-foot structure of laboratory space is set to open by August 2011.

“This is a gigantic step forward for Marquette,” Jaskolski said. “We are building a game-changing facility focused on innovation and application in the real-world.”

Cara Brigman, a sophomore in the College of Engineering who spoke at the groundbreaking, said the new building will allow students and faculty to work together in entirely new ways.

“The Discovery Learning Complex will be an extraordinary addition,” Brigman said. “Labs dedicated to hands-on teaching will improve Marquette and help transform students.”

The first phase of the project will build a Discovery Learning Laboratory equipped with three-dimensional printers and systems capable of cutting high-tech materials, Brigman said. It will eventually join a 250,000-square-foot building of offices and classrooms.

Marquette has $70 million pledged of the total $100 million construction cost through donations, fundraisers and grants. Jaskolski said $31 million has also been raised for engineering scholarships.

University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild, speaking a day after announcing his plans to retire, said the university would remain cautious in proceeding with construction of the entire Discovery Learning Complex because of the state of the economy and remaining funds that need to be secured.

Coupled with Zilber Hall and Eckstein Hall, the Discovery Learning Complex is the third major structural project on campus in as many years. Wild called that a testament to the university’s forward thinking and commitment to educational advancement.

At the groundbreaking, Jaskolski likened the development of the complex to a simple spark of an idea that progressed into a “bonfire.” Before her speech, Brigman lit a ceremonial candle that embodied this sentiment.

Wild thanked donors and lauded the building’s potential to attract new students motivated toward finding solutions in engineering fields.

Both Jaskolski and Wild addressed the global need for engineers and remained optimistic that the new complex would help the college attract new students and give them the tools to integrate theory in forming real-life solutions and products.

Jaskolski said the new complex will help shift the College of Engineering toward an experiment and exploratory-based “discovery learning” approach. It will also extend engineering programs to schools around Milwaukee and build an enticing facility that also serves as a gift to Milwaukee and the region.

Kathy Scherbarth, a 1978 engineering alumna and vice president of Milwaukee Operations at STRATTEC Security Corporation, also spoke to the unique capabilities of the Discovery Learning Complex. She also serves on the National Advisory Council, which serves to connect the professional world with College of Engineering students.

“This magnificent facility will create a passion for learning,” Scherbarth said. “With the Discovery Learning Complex, engineers are now more than ever equipped to be the difference.”