NORMAN — A 35,000 square foot radar laboratory planned east of the National Weather Center on the OU Research Campus will help transform the university’s “Center of Excellence” weather radar program to the best in the world, officials said Tuesday.
The $15 million building is designed for interaction among students and clusters of faculty. Creativity, innovation and new technologies come through such deliberative collaboration.
“It’s not only what is being done here, it’s how it’s being done,” said Kelvin Droegemeier, OU’s vice president of research.
OU officials broke ground on the research laboratory on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. President David L. Boren praised the faculty who will occupy the new space.
“In this area of radar research technology and application, there is no better faculty in the United States,” he said.
One of those faculty members, Jessica Ruyle, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, called the building a “pivotal element” for research and training on campus. She said work done there would have civilian and military applications.
Bob Palmer, director of the OU Advanced Radar Research Center, credited the program’s success to teamwork, loyalty, respect and the vision of the university administration.
“OU’s administration has a vision for what the radar program should be in the next 20 to 30 years,” Palmer said.
The Radar Innovations Lab, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2013, is the eighth research facility to be built on the OU Research Campus in less than a decade.
Boren said the lab is part of the effort to transform the state’s econonomy from natural resources to technology, intellectural property and innovation. The lab will serve both the research and educational missions of the university, providing a hands-on active learning environment for OU’s engineering and science students.
“This facility wll create the kind of collaborative energy and technology we are talking about,” Boren said.
He said universities remain our nation’s “premier national asset” despite significant “defunding” by state legislatures. OU, for example, operated on about 32 percent state funds a decade ago. Today, that has fallen to 14 percent, Boren said.
At least 60 students and 20 faculty from the Advanced Radar Research Center will be housed within the lab and have access to an expansive microwave laboratory that features a full suite of state-of-the-art test equipment, a high-bay garage for mobile radar trucks, prototype fabrication facilities, a machine shop, two precision echoless chambers, experimental observation deck, and a unique “Ideas Room” to foster collaboration and innovation.