Robots, weather balloons and computerized cars highlight grand opening of SIUE Engineering Building

News-DemocratFebruary 18, 2014 

— A talking robot, a solar car, a traffic signal the size of a person and the launch of a weather balloon highlighted Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's official opening of the expanded engineering building Tuesday.

The $14.2 million, 32,000-square-foot expansion and renovation comes a mere 14 years after the engineering building opened in 2000. Dean Hasan Sevim said that at that time, they didn't have any idea that talks about expanding the building would begin a few years after its opening -- until the engineering program grew by 40 percent between 2008 and 2013.

The program was timed to coincide with National Engineering Month, Sevim said. "As usual, SIUE has much to celebrate," he said.

Attendees walked past a solar-powered car displayed in the lobby and visited a giant traffic signal and driving simulator, intended to allow traffic engineering students like Robert Seitzinger to try out traffic designs and road conditions without the risks inherent in practical experiments.

"What this building means to us is that we are attending a school that is as dynamic as we are," said freshman mechanical engineering student Alex Anderson. "We are not constrained by the resources of our campus."

Freshmen students launched a weather balloon at the end of the ceremony, which is intended to rise 100,000 feet into the air with cameras attached to film Earth from a different perspective.

And the ribbon was held by Nao, a talking robot designed by senior computer science engineering student Cathy Casey. When not holding ribbons at ceremonies, Casey programs Nao to work with kids who have social anxiety issues.

"This building allows our students much-needed space, up-to-date technology and a state-of-the-art learning environment," said Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe. "To the rest of our community, this addition adds another treasure to our already-breathtaking campus."

SIU President Glenn Poshard said the expansion and growth proves that engineering programs are booming, and will allow SIUE to continue to offer high-quality, state-of-the artprograms and facilities to its engineering students, who come from around the globe.

He also pointed out that once LEED certification is complete, SIUE will tie with the University of Illinois Champaign for the greatest number of certified energy-efficient buildings among state universities -- and will be behind only Washington University in the St. Louis region.

"It has been my honor to watch the building of two engineering buildings, one at SIUE and one at SIUC," said Poshard, who is retiring at the end of the spring semester. "I only have four months to go, but I will never forget the can-do attitude of this campus."


Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at or 618-239-2507.

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