When UNC Charlotte opens its doors for a new academic year in August, engineering students will have some new toys: construction cranes, a smart grid facility and state-of-the-art labs.
On Tuesday, school officials showed off UNCCs recently completed $76 million engineering building, which will house its new Energy Production and Infrastructure Center. The 200,000-square-foot building with four floors of classrooms, labs and conference rooms, will provide students with hands-on engineering experience.
Planning for EPIC began about four years ago when 11 Charlotte-area energy companies approached UNCC about creating a program that would prepare engineering students to enter the growing Charlotte energy sector, said Johan Enslin, director of EPIC and a professor in the Lee College of Engineering.
EPIC combines the colleges engineering programs, including electrical, civil and mechanical, with concentrations in energy and real-world industry practice.
The companies which include local energy powerhouses like Duke Energy, Siemens Energy, Inc. and Westinghouse have provided funding, scholarships and helped create the programs curriculum.
Its because of these energy leaders that we are here today, Enslin said.
Jason Anderson, pursuing his electrical engineering doctorate, said energy companies are facing an engineer shortage as the older generation begins to retire. EPIC could help solve that.
Its important so we can prepare this new generation, he said. For 25 years, no one went into engineering. Weve got to replace them.
Local industry leaders say the program is an important tool to draw both engineers and energy companies to the area.
Both Siemens and Duke have committed to providing more than $4 million for the program, and Westinghouse provided two cranes that students will use to test models and designs.
The building will bring all 3,000 of UNCCs undergraduate and graduate engineering students together in one location.
Jennifer Evans, UNCC construction manager, said the Gold LEED-certified building also has a host of environmentally friendly technologies.
These features, which include a cool-beam air conditioning system and natural lighting, help reduce the buildings energy consumption by more than 30 percent, in line with state construction regulations for public universities.