New building promotes student camaraderie

Students’ chatter filled the engineering computer lab downstairs in the Balzer Technology Center as they gathered to work on homework together.

“Where an English [major] can write a paper anywhere on campus, we can only do stuff here,” said senior engineering major Joseph Kmetz, explaining why students frequent the lab so often. He said the computers in their lab have programs that are not on any other lab computers on campus.

“[Studying is] kind of our way of hanging out, I guess,” Kmetz said

Thirty computer monitors, all facing the same direction, line the room. Though the room’s layout suggests focused studying, this doesn’t stop students from talking loudly with each other, something that fellow lab studiers in the library, for example, would frown upon.

Four senior engineers in the lab each said they were too busy for an interview, as they were glued to their computer screens to work on the same assignment.

The engineering students are now more isolated than ever from the main campus since most of their classwork is now in the Balzer Technology Center. North Hall, as the closest dorm to the center, is becoming increasingly attractive to engineering students. While it remains a mystery to many, the engineering student body calls itself a creative, close-knit community.

The engineering students in the new center share the building with construction management and renewable energy majors. Engineering is the largest in the building with 99 students, as compared to construction management’s 51 and renewable energy’s 18.

Engineers, depending on the semester, tend to spend a large amount of time in their building, according to senior Gabo Ruiz. “When we were sophomores we had a project and we would stay in the last building for hours or days.”

Even though the students spend a significant amount of time studying, this doesn’t stop them from having fun.

Senior Jesse Van Gorkum explained that by the time a class of engineering students are seniors, they are already very close friends.

“We get along pretty well and we have a good time, especially when we’re up late doing homework,” he said.

He described some of the shenanigans engineers get into, such as racing the rolling chairs down the long hallway by the computer lab. Van Gorkum said seniors also put up what he called a “battle royale,” where they list two students at the top of a board and cast votes for which would win in a fight.

“Last year’s class did that, so we just figured we’d do it as well,” he said.

Engineers have a knack for pranks. Van Gorkum said once they turned all the monitors around backward in their computer lab.

Several engineers explained another incident when some students put all the houseplants in front of a professor’s office door.

“We need a dorm,” said sophomore Kaitlyn Bradley. She and three other engineers were gathered around a square table on the second floor of the building.

“We already live here anyways,” added sophomore Gabriel Rudolph. “We might as well sleep here too.”

Most students find that the new building promotes community. Though it is farther away on campus, facilities are nicer and students are less hesitant to make use of it.

Larry Bland, professor of engineering and construction management, said the building is a better environment for both teachers and students. He described how students “are working very well around the building in areas that we designed for those study groups” and are experiencing “the whole idea of enthusiasm that comes with the new.”