What's New On Campus: NAIT

CAT: A Major Campus Addition

08, May, 2017

What’s New on Campus?

Technology Alberta subscribers and regular readers know how proud ASET is of its strong relationships with the province’s educational institutions, particularly NAIT, Red Deer College (RDC), SAIT, and Lethbridge College (LC). Our Programs & Services staff frequently present on professional ethics to students, and ASET representatives sit on numerous program industry advisory committees. This partnership goes back to the Association’s earliest days, and is expected only to grow as we move ever closer to the universal certification of Alberta’s engineering and geoscience technology professionals.

Our annual Back to School articles have become very popular, and last fall we received a number of comments from certified technologists who were impressed by the seven capstone projects featured in the September issue. So much so, in fact, that ASET has created the Capstone Project of the Year Award, honouring the best of the best in end-of-program student initiatives. On April 1, 2017, at the AGM in Calgary, we will formally announce the inaugural recipient of this prize and believe it will become a coveted recognition of academic achievement, representing a significant addition to the curriculum vitae of any young professional.

We’re always fascinated by how much is going on at any one time on the campuses of our major educational partners and have decided that once a year simply doesn’t do them justice. The following article is a quick look at just some of what’s setting apart Alberta’s excellent technical educators.

NAIT

CAT: A Major Campus Edition

These numbers represent the vital statistics of the Centre for Applied Technology (CAT), NAIT’s magnificent new building. They barely do justice to this breathtaking, five-storey, state-of-the-art gem that opened in August 2016, and houses the schools of Business, Health and Life Sciences, and, of course, Applied Sciences and Technology. The grandeur of the facility, with its open spaces and gorgeous central atrium, masks leading-edge capabilities and an improved overall approach to education. This latter is predicated on the increasingly-popular BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) concept that encourages students to learn on their own laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Improved Wi-Fi and a mobile print app provide the ultimate in flexibility, allowing individual and group study throughout the CAT in any of the numerous lounges and computer stations.

One of the largest post-secondary facilities in Canada, the CAT expands NAIT’s campus by more than a third, meaning it accounts for roughly 25% of the entire campus teaching  space. This provides thousands of students and teachers with a significantly improved learning environment. Particularly impressive are the lengths to which NAIT has gone to take sustainability into account. Considering the facts below, it’s hardly surprising the institution is pursuing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certification for CAT with the Canada Green Building Council:

  • 98% of construction waste was diverted from landfill;
  • The CAT environment is controlled by means of a high-efficiency central plant with radiant heating and cooling for perimeter spaces, complete with heat recovery from building exhaust air;
  • The building features a high-performance envelope with energy-efficient glass;
  • Long-lasting LED lighting has been installed throughout the building, and this has been supplemented by occupancy sensors;
  • Washroom fixtures feature low-flow technology to reduce water consumption by as much as 50%; and,
  • Plentiful bicycle parking  supplements a nearby major transit hub, including an LRT stop, effectively decreasing staff, student, and visitor reliance on driving.

All of the information above is impressive but really, other than the cool bells and whistles—okay, okay, “Outrageously cool” is more accurate—why would ASET and its technologists care about the new CAT building? Simply put, this facility is a significant addition to the already remarkable educational opportunities available to the next generation of C.Tech.’s, C.E.T.’s, and P.Tech.’s. Technology Alberta recently had the privilege of touring the building and was blown away by the attention to detail and the improvements available to students, particularly future engineering technologists. Some photographs are included to prove this point. 

Our inner geek was particularly impressed by the high-tech simulators used by Petroleum and Geological Engineering Technology students. Space-age chairs feature an extraordinary range of buttons and joysticks that control a virtual world on three high-res screens located at the user’s eye level. An immersive virtual world allows one the opportunity to work on a rig without ever leaving the comforts of the CAT’s basement labs. Beyond the obvious attraction for millennials, such techie toys provide an invaluable environment in which students can build valuable skills without incurring physical risk, a point made all too clear to us after we repeatedly killed our virtual selves by dropping massive pipes on their heads. Safety gear can go only so far.

It’s telling that a February 2016 campus-wide vote overwhelmingly (93 percent in favour) directed the NAIT Student Association (NAITSA) to support CAT’s construction. Accordingly NAITSA will donate $5 million to the polytechnic, the largest single gift it has ever received. Forty percent of that sum, $2 million, was earmarked for the new building. That may not sound like a lot in the context of $300-million project but consider this: Students voted to support a capital project that will benefit future NAIT generations. It’s a huge vote of confidence in their post-secondary education and underscores how fortunate Albertans are to have such academic opportunities available to them. 

What we admire about our educational institutions is their desire to provide students with a comprehensive, enriching experience. From its technological advancements to sweeping views to the outdoor quad equipped with a stage for events, NAIT’s CAT serves as a reminder that education should be immersive and enjoyable, while preparing individuals for successful careers. In fact, all four of the advances featured in this article are testament to the 360-degree approach our province’s academic leaders take to improving the lives of the students entrusted to their care.