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Building science – Allan Hancock trains for future

By   /   Tuesday, April 15th, 2008  /   Comments Off on Building science – Allan Hancock trains for future

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science.jpgThe new $21 million science building at Allan HancockCollege in Santa Maria means gleaming laboratories and a lot more spacefor equipment, legs and elbows. But to physics students, it also meansmore maneuvering room to dodge flying objects.


“With projectile experiments, you used to get hit by a lot of steelbearings,” said John Benedetti, a former U.S. Marine who’s beenattending the community college full time for about two years. “In thenew rooms, you can conduct experiments more accurately.”

Students have been using the new 44,000-square-foot science buildingsince classes started last fall, but the school formally unveiled it ata ribbon-cutting and grand opening April 4.

The ceremonial opening was the same day California State University,Channel Islands, unveiled its $62 million John Spoor Broome Library onits Camarillo campus. For both schools, the buildings representmilestones in their development.

“This new facility is like stepping into the 21st century after tryingto work in the Dark Ages,” said Linda Metaxas, who has taught physicsat Allan Hancock College since 1999 and will take over as departmentchairwoman for life sciences and physical sciences next year.

The new two-story building boasts nine new laboratories for the lifeand physical sciences department. Most of the life sciences – such asbiology, nursing and dental assisting – are on the first floor. Thehealth sciences program gained an expanded lab for classes in dentalassistance, featuring operating chairs for seven patients, with digitalradiography equipment for each one.

For the nursing unit, the first floor of the building includes eightsimulated hospitable beds and a computerized mannequin on whichstudents can practice their skills. A cold room can store cadavers foranatomy classes. A “clean room” also is available for peering atmicrobes and the sterile preparation of microbiological samples. Thephysical sciences – physics, chemistry, geology and engineering –reside on the second floor.

Standing in one of her new labs during the grand opening, Metaxasconcocted a variation on Santa Maria strawberries and cream by churningheavy whipping cream and liquid nitrogen and serving it up to students,faculty and community leaders.

Between stirs, she pointed out that the new rooms will let her increaseclass sizes from 24 students to 28 students, each of whom will have farmore room. The black-topped science tables sit on wheels so they can berearranged during lab sessions.

Metaxas will enjoy about four times as much space on the white boardwhere she writes equations and notes during class. She said she’ll beable to make it through an entire lecture without having to erase partof her work.

During the grand opening, Benedetti and fellow student Chase Aquinomanned frequency generators that made wave forms visible through stringor rising natural gas flames.

In the old building, Aquino said, putting away the frequency generatorsrequired jamming them deep into the back of storage cabinets packedlike jigsaw-puzzles. Now, Aquino simply stows the generators on ashelf.

“It wasn’t one building, per se,” Aquino said of the old sciencefacilities. The multi-building site forced subjects such as chemistryand geology to share space. “The biggest thing about the new buildingis the dedicated space for each subject.”

Down the hall near a classroom whose shelves and counters teemed withmulticolored rocks from fist-size to pumpkin-size, geology instructorRob Meyer passed by the door of his new office and recalled the crampedquarters of the old building. “My office was actually a chemistrypreparation area. It wasn’t secure – I couldn’t lock it. This is verynice,” he said of his new office.

Meyer’s new geology classroom is about two and half times bigger thanhis old one, letting him leave more rocks on display, which in turnpiques more curiosity among students. The new digs also feature aseparate room for storing a rock saw used to cut and prepare samples.In the old days, Meyer said, a fine layer of dust would coat the entireclassroom after preparing a rock.

The added storage space lets him teach his students things he couldn’tbefore, such as hands-on lessons on how to cut and polish rocks. In theold days, Meyer said, operating the circular rock saw, with itswhirring abrasive disc, while 28 students huddled near was out of thequestion: “To do that with that many people around was a safetyconcern.”

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