We departed from the hotel this morning at 8:30am to meet with Marty Burger from American Constructors. Due to the rain, plans were altered so we ended up spending all of our time at only one jobsite. We ended up at one of the new high schools (Tom Glenn High School in Leander, TX) which American Constructors has been working on for more than a year. The project was set to open in a couple of weeks and was going through final punch.
While at the school, we had presentations from the project manager on the high school as well as a presentation from the project manager from a similar high school that is still in the early stages of construction. Both talked and showed us some of the features of the high schools' construction, including the learning community layout, the concrete tilt wall construction, and the implementation of the geothermal heat pumps. We then were led on a tour of the high school and got to see the implementation of the many systems and features of the high school. The tour was great as we got to see how the school is broken up into different communities that create spaces for collaboration and partnered learning.
After the tour we sat down again and received another presentation from one of the Vice Presidents, Marty Burger. Mr. Burger talked about how the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry has changed and how it continues to change. He told us that we are entering the construction industry at a great time when technologies and practices are improving. His imparting advice to us was to go somewhere we feel we can learn the most and if we feel we can no longer learn, then for us to think about our next move.
During the afternoon, we traveled to the University of Texas at Austin campus. We were met by KU alumnus Dr. Thomas Edgar, a faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering at UT. He conducts research in energy and welcomed us to campus and introduced us to Dr. Hal Alper, another faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering at UT, who runs the Laboratory for Cellular and Metabolic Engineering. Dr. Alper gave a presentation on the UT Department of Chemical Engineering, highlighting the strengths of UT, the city of Austin, and the research and academic programs in the Department of Chemical Engineering. The UT program ranks #7, and has also opened the Dell Medical School this fall, which is the first new medical school to open in the US in the last 25 years. UT Chemical Engineering is a broad discipline with a wide variety of emphases and research including biomedicine, nanotechnology, advanced materials, and fuel and energy.
The first lab we toured was Dr. Jennifer Maynard’s lab in the Department of Chemical Engineering, which is a protein engineering lab focused creating vaccines and immunotherapeutic agents. We were met by graduate students Andrea and Chris, who guided us through their three lab spaces and explained their projects and shared with us their experiences at UT.
We then went to the UT Makerspace Studio, which features a wide variety of high-tech equipment that is open for students to use to make, create, and innovate. The Makerspace, which is open approximately 80 hours a week, is free for students of UT to use for either class projects or personal use. The equipment available includes 3D printers, full wood shop, and plasma cutters. Next, we had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Michael Weber, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering whose research centers around the issues of global energy, food, and water, and the intersection of these issues with public policy. After a fascinating discussion that touched on the topics of nuclear energy, climate change, and the future directions of clean energy, we headed off to the Rehabilitation and Neuromuscular Robotics lab run by Dr. Ashish Deshpande. In this lab, we had the opportunity to hear from a number of graduate students working on different aspects of an artificial hand apparatus that is designed for rehabilitation and long-term assistance of patient’s strength and movement ability after neuromuscular injury.
It was a wonderful opportunity to visit the beautiful UT campus, and it was exciting to hear about the ground-breaking research that is being conducted and learn about their prestigious academic program.
Our day concluded with boat tour on Lake Austin to meet and mingle with KU Alumni. Thankfully, the day's rain had subsided and the temperature was perfect for a sunset cruise around the lake. As darkness fell on the peaceful lake, fellows and alumni traded stories of late nights in the library, crazy roommates and fun adventures at KU.
Jay Howard, a 1979 graduate of the KU School of Business and President of JHD investments in Austin, was on hand to organize the event and serve as our gracious host. Speaking with and hearing advice and guidance from fellow Jayhawks is always a rewarding experience, and we all are looking forward to a similar event in Houston on Thursday.