Campus Life

Science and Engineering Building grand opening set for Feb. 3-5

After five years in the making, the highly anticipated University of West Florida School of Science and Engineering (SSE) building opened its doors to UWF students, faculty and staff Jan. 6, just in time for the new spring semester. The 100,000-square-foot, four-story building will bring computer science, electrical and computer engineering, math and physics programs together to provide an inter-disciplinary approach to learning in a state-of-the-art facility.

“I think students will love the outdoor classroom and the new multi-platform lab will be a great asset,” said Michael Zimmerman, an enthusiastic senior computer engineering student who has been helping promote the new building by posting information about the SSE Video Contest to the SSE Facebook page. “The idea behind the video contest is to generate some buzz about the new building.”

Among the building’s features are classrooms designed for a global, technological society, prototype robot fabrication and testing laboratories, a 3-D virtual reality simulator—lovingly referred to as the “holodeck”—and a glass-walled atrium that will literally put science on public view.

“The holodeck was designed by NavTech principals who have previously worked with Disney engineers on similar projects,” said Earl Smith, project manager for UWF. “The UWF holodeck is one of the largest curved projection screens of its kind in the world, measuring approximately 30 feet long and 16 feet tall. I think the innovative features that the new building offers will be a tremendous recruiting tool for the university.”

The public will have the opportunity to tour the new building next month at one of the many grand opening events scheduled Feb. 3, 4 and 5. With 11 classrooms and 22 labs, there will be plenty of room to explore.

On Feb. 3, prospective students will have the opportunity to tour the building to learn more about the school’s academic programs.

Event highlights for Feb. 4 include a ribbon-cutting ceremony, building tours, a technology expo, breakout sessions with UWF alumni and industry experts (all free and open to the public) and a private tour and free reception for UWF alumni.

The stand-out event for Feb. 5 will be featured guest speaker Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation, an organization that stimulates competition and excitement around some of the planet’s most important goals.

“Before he established the X Prize Foundation, Diamandis ran a company that took civilians on rides into the upper atmosphere,” said Gretchen VanValkenburg, associate director of development. “This event will be ‘out of this world’ and UWF is honored and thrilled to have him as our special guest. As a token of appreciation to our donors, we’ve invited them to attend a private reception with Dr. Diamandis.”

The UWF Science and Engineering building was made possible through state support, as well as private support from individuals, foundation and corporations.

For a complete listing of the grand opening events, visit For more information, contact VanValkenburg at (850) 474-2875 or e-mail


By Lauren Smith, University Marketing Communications