URI, Schneider Electric partner for temporary laboratory, classroom space during construction of new engineering center

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KINGSTON, R.I. –January 26, 2017 – Several University of Rhode Island engineering programs will temporarily relocate to space leased at the West Kingston offices of Schneider Electric during construction of a new engineering building on URI’s Kingston campus.

The University’s electrical, computer and biomedical engineering programs, including laboratories, offices and classrooms, will occupy a total of 30,000 square feet on the first and second floors of the Schneider Electric facility at 132 Fairgrounds Road, West Kingston. The facility is about two miles from the Kingston campus.

A formal ribbon-cutting of the new facility will be held at 1 p.m. Feb. 3.

“This is another great example of how the URI engineering programs are partnering with industry,” said Raymond Wright, dean of the URI College of Engineering. “I can’t think of a better place for our students while our new facilities are being built. The Schneider building is not only near to the College, but Schneider is also engaged in engineering. This active engineering environment will create some very interesting student / industry interactions.”

Almost all of URI’s engineering programs must relocate temporarily to accommodate the demolition of five existing engineering buildings and construction of a new engineering building on the same footprint. Renovations have already begun at Pastore and Morrill halls for the chemical, industrial and mechanical engineering programs during the construction phase.

In addition to temporarily moving the three engineering programs to Schneider Electric, the College of Engineering’s capstone design program is also relocated there. This year-long program for senior-level students partners them with local companies seeking solutions to specific engineering problems.

“We’ve never had a dedicated space where all the capstone design teams can be together and where they can easily interact with faculty members and industry representatives,” Wright said, noting that the capstone design area at Schneider Electric will be equipped with 3D printers, a machine shop and technical staff to support it. “This is going to be a very positive step for the program, allowing us to test out different configurations in anticipation of moving the program into dedicated space in the new building.”

“We had excellent cooperation from Schneider Electric in negotiating this lease and accommodating our needs,” said J. Vernon Wyman, URI assistant vice president for business services. “They’re in the business of electrical engineering, so the staff on site is enthusiastic about potential interactions with our engineering students and faculty. They’re looking forward to having our students enliven the work environment.”

URI is arranging with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority for a shuttle service to bring students back and forth from the Kingston campus to Schneider Electric. In addition, Schneider has offered the use of its cafeteria and auditorium to those using the leased space.

Demolition of the existing engineering buildings will take place in early spring 2017, and the new engineering building is scheduled to open in 2019.

The building will replace Crawford Hall, Gilbreth Hall, Kelly Hall, Kelly Hall Annex and Wales Hall, all of which opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The building will be home to seven of the University’s eight engineering programs: biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, industrial and mechanical engineering.

Funding for construction of the new building comes from a $125 million bond that Rhode Island voters approved in 2014. Phase II of the engineering complex involves the renovation of and an addition to Bliss Hall, built in 1928 and home of the College of Engineering.

Voters approved bond referendum #4 on last November’s ballot that includes $25.5 million for Phase II engineering and $20 million to fund a University-affiliated Innovation Campus program that will establish one or more innovation campuses in the state, where cutting edge research can be turned into new products, services, and businesses.