Foothill Opens State-of-the-Art Science Center

The freezing cold 1960s-era labs with ventilation that sucked the heat up with the fumes are a thing of the past. In its place, a center that inspires collaboration and learning, supported by its LEED Silver-designed facilities.

The massive Periodic Table that greets visitors as they enter Foothill College's new Physical Science and Engineering Center says it all: This ain't your grandfather's science lab anymore.

On Tuesday, Foothill joyously threw open the doors to the new $41.6 million PSEC, as it's already called—its gleaming labs with good ventilation, comfortable classrooms and new vistas of the tree-studded hills that give it its name.

Foothill President Judy Miner welcomed about 150 guests, from educational partners such as UC Santa Cruz and neighbors Stanford University, to feeder schools Mountain View Los Altos High School District and Palo Alto Unified School District. Trustees, foundation members, citizen's bond oversight committee and advisory council members rounded out the list.

The PSEC is dedicated to strengthening student mastery of science, technology, engineering and mathematics—STEM—through interdisciplinary teaching and applied learning. Foothill DeAnza Community College District Chancellor Linda Thor said she hoped to draw more minority students to the STEM learning that will supply local tech companies with the high-skilled workforce it needs.

It is the largest project to use funds from Measure C, which also built the Media and Learning Center at DeAnza College. 

The facility also houses the Foothill College Science & Learning Institute (SLI), an innovative instructional model that draws on educational research and best practices to support successful teaching and learning of STEM-related content.

A key goal of the SLI is to increase the university-transfer rates of community college students who are studying STEM subjects, and to develop a STEM workforce that is prepared for jobs in computer science, nanotechnology and renewable energy systems.

"The Foothill College SLI instructional model is a key part of our goal to deliver better educated students into the Silicon Valley workforce," said Physical Sciences, Math & Engineering Division Dean Peter Murray, M.S. "In addition to increasing the university-transfer rates of students studying STEM subjects, the SLI will develop a STEM workforce that is prepared for Silicon Valley job openings in nanotechnology, renewable energy solutions, computer and network sciences, bioengineering and other critical fields."

The SLI is strengthened by its partnerships with such organizations as the Gates' Foundation Global Skills for College Completion, Carnegie Foundation's Statway Project, National Science Foundation's STEMWay and Nanotechnology projects, and award-winning campus programs such as Math My Way.

The center opened to students at the beginning of winter quarter, some of whom expressed their pleasure of working in the new labs as visitors poked their heads into nearly all corners of the buildings.

Physics instructor Frank Cascarano described to the crowd what it was like for him to walk through the center, after having worked with the architects to create spaces for collaboration, to see every break-out room filled with students engaged with one another.

"It was all I could do to contain myself," he said. "I wanted to shout, 'Yes, yes, it worked!"

For more information about how the project was paid for and its monitoring, the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee just recently posted its annual report on its website.


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