By CARLY STEWART, Staff Reporter ¦
Amarillo College invited the entire community to be a part of the grand opening of the STEM research center and greenhouse. The celebratory event took place Thursday, Sept. 27. AC began the construction of the center on the Washington Street Campus more than two years ago, with the construction team Parkhill, Smith & Cooper. The greenhouse was created as a research facility to give science and biology majors hands-on experience in their fields.
“This greenhouse will help I think with making people more aware of the impact we have on the environment,” Jonathan Lee, a mechanical engineering major, said. “It’s a really cool project. I’m glad AC went for it. It’s good to have a greenhouse here because STEM students won’t have to transfer somewhere else specifically for this kind of experience.”
The nearly 12,000-square-foot building has multiple classrooms and laboratories inside for various plant studies, such as soil composition, microscopic analysis and plant disease examination. During the open house event, students demonstrated how the new high-tech equipment works.
“Right now we’re studying the Earth’s soil and Mars’ soil so that hopefully one day people can grow plants on Mars,”
Gina Talley, a bio certification applicant, said. “With this machine called the LI-6800 Portable Photosynthesis System, we can take the leaves and analyze the co2 exchange within them to better understand what improvements in lighting and soil can be made.”
The facility’s funding came from a $4.9 million department of education grant, which was devoted primarily to the advanced equipment and technology that will be used in the research labs. Students have already been in the process of growing specimens and setting up growing areas.
“Basically I’m helping the greenhouse director with things like watering plants, ordering supplies and making soil for the soil culture students,” Lexy Elizalde, a biology major and student worker, said. “This place is amazing. It’s really going to bring in more students who are interested in getting STEM degrees. The students are going to able to get much more hands on experience, which is great for them and getting their degrees.”
AC officials said they anticipate that the greenhouse will become the hub of hands-on scientific education in the region.