Bolin Science Hall welcomes new renovations and reopens the planetarium – The Wichitan

The Bolin Science Hall has big renovation projects on the horizon. An approval process for renovation plans is to take place over the next three years. The dean’s office at McCoy College of Science, Mathematics and Engineering has made plans to maximize the space available at Bolin, according to physics professor Jackie Dunn.

“Some of the things we have [are] idea renderings: a welcome center when you walk in, the building on this north side will be a more modern welcome,” said James Johnston, Acting President. “Right now you walk in and it’s just hallways, classrooms, offices, so we’re going to do that and it’s going to be administrative offices and we’ll take care of the students when they come through the door. Then all the labs need to be upgraded and renovated by creating more space, adding to the building and moving some of the offices [to] build more lab space across the center.

Dunn said most of the renovations were to reconfigure Bolin and provide more space for everyone, a change she said had been planned for some time and is now long overdue. Johnston said those plans also include upgrading other buildings and infrastructure on campus.

“The capital improvement funds that we have received from the state will enable us to move forward with the Bolin Science Hall. There are pieces of infrastructure, the maintenance tunnels that are on the campus, sikes lake dredging, there are things like that that need to be maintained and maintained as well so we are looking at all of that and have plans on how we would spend the state money that we received , and now it’s just a very tedious process of going through each of the steps to get to that point of having the money and starting the projects,” Johnston said. “Infrastructure moves to the center of [Bolin]if you try to move it all out it’s incredibly more expensive, so they work with the existing building, but they really take it apart, remodel it, upgrade it and build it all up.

This modernization will not only contribute to the aesthetic value of the university, but also to the recruitment and retention of students. Science equipment needs to be updated to best prepare students for their field, according to Dunn.

“It’s hard when you’re doing science to be in a space that’s sort of outdated, so it’s good to always update something just for fun,” Dunn said. “Pretty much everyone has growing pains on campus, I think. So there is never enough space. So I know they are looking forward to having space in this building.

Kendra Jean-Jacques, senior physics, said these upgrades are important to give students hands-on experience and opportunities in their fields. She also said that new things always improve student happiness in general.

“Honestly, I think it’s a great initiative and it’s always good to have upgraded equipment… I hope the upgrade has study areas for students to just relax and study. In addition, a more attractive environment makes students want to go there,” said Jean-Jacques. “Chemistry labs, physics labs, biology labs, mechanical engineering labs, just get all the labs upgraded because outside of class, outside of class, that’s what gives students the hands-on training, hands-on experience that they need. And it’s a hands-on way to put what they’ve learned in the classroom into practice, so if we’ve upgraded the labs and upgraded the equipment in the renovation, I’m pretty sure it will make the conference much more interesting.

Dunn said renovations in science can be expensive. Upgrading the Bolin Hall Planetarium computers can cost $50-60,000, another area that will be upgraded during this process. When the pandemic arrived, the planetarium was closed, and with that, the planetary shows came to a halt.

The planetarium provides a unique viewing experience for students on February 16. (Abigail Jones)

“We closed before the pandemic and so no one came to that venue because we weren’t doing shows. It was useless. None of us across the country knew what would happen with the computers, so we didn’t expect there to be any problems. When we came back to reopen last summer, we were hoping to restart the shows, and the computers weren’t turning on. They would just power cycle,” Dunn said.

Pandemic relief funds, especially for technology issues, paid for the planetarium’s computer repairs just in time before reopening this semester. Dunn said the planetarium would resume shows in April, which Jean-Jacques said she plans to return and revisit after graduating in May.

“With the planetarium, I really think it’s extremely good that they are reopening it. For the summer I see that they already have planetarium sessions in the boxes. It’s good to bring the students to the sciences or, more specifically, to physics, to make them better aware of the options available to us,” said Jean-Jacques. “I hope I can come back this summer and attend one of the sessions, because it’s a really nice feeling after attending conferences. [when] you see the planetarium and the sessions they have. I would like our students to experience this… [For] our graduate and graduate physics students, it will be a very good feeling for them, as if they have something of their own.

Jackie Dunn, professor of physics, holds a
Physics teacher Jackie Dunn holds a ‘Celestial Buddy’ representing a sun, available for young tour groups on February 16. (Abigail Jones)

Arline J. Mercier