The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday December 6th

Phillips Hall to begin renovations

The building’s upstairs renovations cost half a million dollars, and they include a new classroom and the construction of handicapped-accessible bathrooms, said Chris Clemens, chairman of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. UNC Information Technology Services paid about $80,000 of the total cost, he said.

The new classroom will be the largest interactive classroom on campus, said Rich McLaughlin, chairman of the Department of Mathematics.

The new third-floor classroom will have round tables for groups of nine students, allowing for peer instruction and group collaboration. The classroom will also have computer screens and writable surfaces on three walls.

The construction is expected to be finished Jan. 1, in time to host introductory physics and math courses for spring semester, McLaughlin said.

The new space will allow for a revamped physics curriculum, Clemens said. Physics 114 and 115 will replace Physics 104 and 105 respectively as the introductory physics courses — which will now combine the previously separate lecture and lab periods.

“The idea is that students take more responsibility for their learning instead of just sitting and listening,” Clemens said.

McLaughlin said the math and physics departments have also donated the basement space of Phillips Hall for the creation of biomedical engineering laboratories because the space was rarely used.

Devin Hubbard, UNC biomedical engineering professor, said the basement renovations were proposed in January and are expected to be completed by spring 2016.

At Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, the board discussed designer selection for the basement renovations and gave a presentation that said the budget would be almost $1.7 million.

Hubbard said the renovations will help accommodate the growing biomedical engineering program. The major has typically had 30 to 40 students per class year, but Hubbard taught more than 100 freshmen this semester.

“Right now we’re in a space that is simply too small to house our students,” Hubbard said.

The space will be divided into two lab areas with a flexible classroom style, and professors will be able to easily reconfigure the classroom and control the acoustics.

Nicholas Norman, senior biomedical engineering major, said there are always a lot of different classes fighting over the currently limited space for the program.He said he thinks this will make the major more appealing for students.

Hubbard said he hopes the space will be a model of interactive learning.

“I hope other departments come down and say, ‘Man, I wish we had this space,’” Hubbard said.

He said the space will better fit the biomedical engineering undergraduate program as it moves toward possibly becoming a joint program with N.C. State University — as the graduate program already is.

The math and physics departments also hope to expand in the basement by creating a new math and physics help center.

“I think that would help create some new synergies with more open spaces for instruction beyond the classroom,” McLaughlin said.


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