UA students in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Soldotna and Valdez benefit from BP gifts
University of Alaska engineering students in Anchorage will be able to build prototypes of buildings, bridges, pipelines and anything else professors demand thanks to $175,000 in new lab equipment donated by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.
The gift was one of many from the company to the university in 2010 that, in addition to Anchorage, went to programs in Fairbanks, Soldotna and Valdez.
The new UAA lab includes 3D printers, computers, scanners, milling machines, laser engraver and other manufacturing equipment that together will become the new Rapid Prototype and Manufacturing (RPM) Lab, housed at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s School of Engineering.
To use the word “printer” is a bit of a misnomer, as the 3D machine will take computer-aided drawings to actually create a 3D prototype using the latest technology available for civil, computer, electrical or mechanical engineering assignments. UAA Associate Engineering Dean Grant Baker said the RPM lab will engage students with hands-on learning in a way that wasn’t possible before.
“The time required to design and manufacture a new, patentable prototype will be hours, instead of weeks or months,” Baker said. “An almost limitless array of new opportunities will be open to students, such as designing and building prototypes of surgical instruments and personalized joint replacements; architectural design of buildings and bridges; model aircraft and vehicles; and nearly all types of mechanical devices as well as the exact replication of objects.”
Some of the equipment needed for the new lab has already arrived and more is expected. The lab should be complete by December, Baker said.
The impact of BP’s various gifts to the university, which total $524,000, also includes a $75,000 donation to Kenai Peninsula College (KPC) to upgrade simulator equipment for its process technology programs in Soldotna and Anchorage.
“Our students will be able to train on a simulator that will mimic what they’ll find in the workplace on the North Slope or Cook Inlet,” said Gary J. Turner, KPC director. He explained this will allow students to interact with process control systems that utilize real digital control algorithms with a computer-based operator interface similar to those used in industry. Students in seven KPC classes will benefit from the donation.
BP also gave $55,000 for the Process Technology program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Community and Technical College. UAF CTC Interim Dean Michele Stalder said the money will allow the program to purchase state-of-the-art equipment for the Fairbanks-based Pipeline Training Center.
"The support that BP has shown over the years has been instrumental in the success and growth of our Process Tech program. We can't thank donors like BP enough for investing in our students and in Alaska's future workforce," Stalder said.
In addition to the RPM lab in Anchorage and the gifts to process tech programs at KPC and UAF’s CTC, other BP gifts this year include:
• $50,000 for graduate and undergraduate student support at UAF’s Alaska Center for Energy and Power;
• $30,000 for a series of competitive contests for students at UAF’s College of Engineering and Mines, including the popular Steel Bridge Competition, the Clean Snowmobile Challenge and the MicroMouse contest;
• $30,000 in contributions to the 2010 and 2011 Last Frontier Theatre Conference, held annually at Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez;
• $57,000 for the summer bridging program at UAA’s Alaska Natives in Science and Engineering Program, known as ANSEP;
• And $40,000 for new scoreboards at the Patty Center Gymnasium for UAF basketball and volleyball fans.
“That BP chooses to continue supporting our students year after year, through such generous charitable donations as this, demonstrates a real trust in the university,” said UA President Pat Gamble. “It’s a trust we take seriously as we strive to deliver well-prepared graduates to Alaska’s economy.”
John Mingé, president of BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., said his company was pleased to make the gifts to the UA campuses.
“We value the role that UA plays in contributing to the quality of life in our great state, and in producing students who are skilled, innovative and engaged in the community,” Mingé said. “We are investing in programs that will help develop the workforce of today and into the future.”