New Lab At UA Little Rock Focuses On Construction And Engineering Technologies

Feb 20, 2020

UA Little Rock held its grand opening for its new Building Information Management (BIM) lab at the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology.
Credit Sarah Kellogg

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock debuted a new lab on Thursday focused on Building Information Management. The BIM lab will be used by students studying construction management and engineering.

Dr. Lawrence Whitman is the dean of the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology. He says the technology helps students better visualize the projects they are designing or working on.

"The technology really is putting up buildings in a computer to allow you walk through, to allow you to see how things come together. Sometimes you can design it on paper and things come together and in the real world they don’t. So the technology here is to build the actual building, design it, put it in the system so that they can actually see what happens and see how things fit together and test all that out," Whitman.

He says having a space like this available to students could be a motivator to continue their studies.

"Students are excited to be in construction. They love it. They come here, they start [taking] a bunch of classes, the classes get difficult and so then they get a little tired in their degree. But when you have technologies like this, sometimes it’s almost like playing a video game at home," Whitman said. 

The lab itself is two rooms, consisting of computers and other technology like virtual reality equipment. Dr. Christina Drale is the Chancellor of UA Little Rock. She says a lab like this can have long term benefits, in addition to providing a new learning space for students.

"It also models how this kind of project can be done. So once our community partners, our industry partners see the success of this lab, it helps generate interest in doing more of the same," Drale said.

Drale says in addition to helping current students, amenities like this could be used as a recruitment tool for the university.

"It’s something that really prepares students to be completely ready for the workplace once they graduate," Drale said.

The Arkansas chapter of Associated General Contractors is the sponsor of the lab. Roger Marlin is the former president of AGC Arkansas, and says the partnership between AGC and the university benefits everyone involved.

"We couldn’t do what we do every day without the product that UALR produces: the students. Even the input from the faculty and I think that we have the resources either through AGC or the member businesses to support this program with funds, with cash, and that’s what we did in this case," Marlin said. 

AGC provided a $30,000 gift for the lab which will maintain it for five years. The construction of the lab itself, including a refurbishment of the room and new furniture and technology was also a gift to the university.