Cal Poly to start building Center for Science and Mathematics this fall

Cal Poly’s planned $132 million Center for Science and Mathematics has gone to bid, and construction is scheduled to start in early September, university officials say.

The 200,000-square-foot facility will replace the northern wing of Cal Poly’s outdated “spider building,” so named because of its shape.

“This center is crucial for many reasons,” Cal Poly President Warren Baker said in a recent interview in the university’s Cal Poly Magazine. “We need to teach students on state-of-the-art equipment, the equipment that industry expects our students to be familiar with.”

Construction of the center was delayed a year when a state general obligation bond stalled because of California’s budget crisis. It wasn’t until April that the bond was sold and the university received word it could move forward. The project is scheduled for completion in fall 2013.

The multitiered structure rising up to six levels will offer more classroom and lab space than the one-story building now used and will house instruction and research rooms for a variety of the college’s disciplines, an environmental biotechnology institute and a technology center.

About $19 million has been raised privately for the new center, said Larry Kelley, vice president for administration and finance. The bond will finance the rest.

An additional $4 million is being allocated to purchase the new equipment to outfit the center.

Phil Bailey, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, said the building is a culmination of several large projects planned by Baker in recent years leading up to his retirement at the end of this month. Other facilities completed include the new engineering buildings, as well as the Poly Canyon Village dorms.

Baker has long promoted improvement of U.S. education in science, technology, engineering and math to keep up with the rest of the world. He particularly encourages college graduates to become math and science teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade because, he says, a need exists for quality instruction.

Bailey said the new center will include studios that combine labs and lecture space, as well as study space open to all students.

The spider building takes up valuable space on campus, Cal Poly officials say.

“When it’s all finished, the new center will be the second largest on campus,” Bailey said. “The entire setup will be to encourage hands-on learning, student inquiry and discovery.”