UGA College of Engineering unveils new instructional and lab space

Group stands in Driftmier behind giant red ribbon ready to cut$5.5 million project is first phase of Driftmier Engineering Center renovation

The University of Georgia College of Engineering celebrated the completion of a major renovation of the Driftmier Engineering Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 13.

The project, completed in time for the beginning of fall semester classes, transformed 21,000 square feet of 1960s-era classroom, laboratory and office space into new state-of-art instructional labs and classrooms. The renovation also provides students with new study areas and new spaces designed to promote project-based learning and teamwork.

“These new classrooms, laboratories and other enhancements truly reflect the energy of our college and its students,” said Donald Leo, dean of the College of Engineering. “The project demonstrates UGA’s commitment to engineering education and serves as a dynamic launch pad for the future of our growing college.”

Driftmier study rooms and tables

Other participants in the ceremony included UGA President Jere W. Morehead, Jack Hu, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, Emily Loncarich, a mechanical engineering student, Jeff McLendon, 1990 engineering graduate and President and CEO of U.S. Lumber, David Driftmier, Microsoft’s Americas services lead – dynamics and the grandson of the building’s namesake, and Gwynne Darden, university architect and associate vice president for facilities planning.

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“On behalf of our students, I would like to thank everyone who has made these renovations possible,” said Loncarich, a fourth-year student from Houston, Texas. “These improvements are only going to enhance current and future students’ experiences. These updated spaces will show prospective students that UGA Engineering has grown tremendously and is highly competitive with other programs.”

The $5.5 million project was funded by the university and the college with support from private donors and industry partners. The renovation work includes a significant expansion of the college’s laboratory capabilities in support of its eight undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs. In addition, the project provides students with three new modern classrooms with a total of 2,700 square feet and more than 100 seats.

Driftmier lab space

The renovation also allowed the College of Engineering to reallocate existing space in the Driftmier Engineering Center to enhance the student experience. A new Student Success Center now houses the college’s experiential learning, academic advising, prospective student outreach and K-12 outreach programs. Previously, those functions had been split between Driftmier and the Paul D. Coverdell Center. The college also converted an existing computer lab into a new Professional Development Center which will host employer recruitment events, career counseling sessions and career workshops.

The Governor and General Assembly have approved funding for a second round of renovation work at Driftmier, scheduled to begin in January 2020. This phase of the work will include new classrooms and instructional spaces, including a modern auditorium classroom. The project is scheduled to be completed in time for the beginning of fall semester 2020.

The Driftmier Engineering Center has served as the home of engineering at UGA since 1966. The 110,000 square-foot building was designed to house biological and agricultural engineering programs. Now, it serves as the instructional hub for the university’s rapidly growing engineering program. In 2011, the year before the College of Engineering was established, enrollment in engineering at UGA totaled approximately 600 students. This fall, there are nearly 2,500 students, and engineering has become a high-demand major – students must apply to enter the college. The college’s research enterprise is expanding along with enrollment, logging a 300% increase in external funding over the past five years.

Originally known as the Agricultural Engineering Building, the facility was named in 1982 for Rudolph Driftmier. Driftmier was a College of Agriculture faculty member from 1930 to 1965 and led the Division of Agricultural Engineering for most of those years.

A working engineer, Driftmier partnered with Roy Hitchcock, an architect, to design and oversee construction of more than 15 buildings at UGA, including many of the federally-funded Public Works Administration buildings constructed in the late 1930s. Driftmier was also the supervising engineer for the University System of Georgia. Along with Hitchcock, he helped create 80 buildings at 16 schools in the System.

“This project will significantly enhance the student experience by providing more state-of-the art spaces for collaboration, design work and teamwork,” said Leo. “With the help of the university, our alumni, friends and industry partners, I believe we’ve positioned our college to better serve our students and our state well into the future.”

By Mike Wooten
Photos: Mark Sorrow and Jonathan Hillyer, courtesy Cooper Carry

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