By Wanda Curtis

The new $78 million Ferland Engineering Education and Design Center at the University of Maine in Orono is rapidly approaching completion. Dean of the College of Engineering Dana Humphrey said they will start moving into the state-of-the-art facility in July. A grand opening is tentatively scheduled for August 24, 2022. He said the incoming class this fall will be the first to benefit from the new facility.

A Team Effort

“Making the Ferland EEDC a reality has been a team effort,” said Humphrey. “The State of Maine provided $50 million in funding for the project. More than 500 donors contributed more than $25 million in private gifts. E. James and Eileen P. Ferland, natives of Skowhegan, Maine, generously gave the naming gift for the project. Additional donors who contributed $1 million or more are: Harold Alfond Foundation, Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation, Packing Corporation of America, Abbagadassett Foundation, and Pratt & Whitney. The creativity of the design team of WBRC Architects Engineers and Ellenzweig is evident throughout the building. They brought great ideas to the table and incorporated suggestions from faculty, staff and students, resulting in a building that will be a point of pride for all Black Bears.”

According to Humphrey, construction of the three-story building has been overseen by Consigli Construction. He said they’re giving UMaine a project that is “on-time and on-budget.” He added that UMaine Facilities Management has been part of every step of making the project a reality. A particular point of pride is that 78 UMaine graduates were involved in the building’s design and construction. The building’s becoming a reality because of Black Bears willing to serve the needs of future Black Bears and the needs of the entire state of Maine, said Humphrey.

“The construction crews are completing the exterior facade of the building by installing the granite cladding on the outside of the first floor, the siding on the mechanical penthouse on top, and the windows,” said Humphrey. “Most of the brickwork on the second and third floor is already done. Inside, the crews are installing and painting the drywall, as well as putting in all the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. They’ll start installing the furniture on the third  floor in late May and then work their way down to the second and first floors.”

Student Project Design Suite

The most important feature of the multi million dollar building is the Student Project Design Suite, said Humphrey, which is nearly half of the first floor. The suite will have 44 workbenches with each being assigned to a group of students for a semester or a year. Students will build their hands-on projects in that suite. Each of the benches has lockable storage where students             can store items. 

“The workbench area will be surrounded by fully-equipped fabrication shops,” said Humphrey. “There will be shops for biomedical engineering, electronics, 3-D printing, vehicles, metal, wood and composites. Students will go out to the shops to fabricate components and then go back to their benches for assembly and debugging. All engineering students, from first-year to graduate students, who have completed basic safety training can use the Design Suite. This will be the best space of its kind in the Northeast.“

Two-Story Commons

In Humphrey’s opinion, the EEDC will be “a magnet for engineering students and faculty.” In part thanks to a two-story commons with comfortable seating for relaxing and work. UMaine dining services will serve beverages, snacks and grab-and-go sandwiches there. Two massive south-facing windows will bring the sun into the commons. A door leads from the commons to an outside plaza.  

Twelve Student Meeting Rooms

“Twelve student meeting rooms strategically placed throughout the building can be reserved on-line for group work and tutoring sessions,” said Humphrey. “There is informal seating along ‘Main Street’ on the second and third floors. Our engineering student clubs have a large meeting room on the second floor. This is a corner office with windows on two sides. A building-long skylight will stream natural light through all floors making them warm and inviting.”

Given all the features of the building, Humphrey said he expects every engineering student will be in the building at least once a day for class, meetings, using one of the labs or for a cup of coffee. He said the building will be home to mechanical engineering, housing its department, faculty and grad student offices.

Teaching Labs

“Two second-floor teaching labs will serve the needs of both mechanical engineering and mechanical engineering technology,” said Humphrey. “There is a roof-top lab where students can conduct real-life experiments with solar trackers and wind turbines. A first-floor tool room with metal lathes and milling machines will be critical for hands-on learning for mechanical engineering technology students. This replaces space that was in the Machine Tool Lab that was razed to make way for the Ferland EEDC.”

Humphrey explained that biomedical engineering will move to the third floor of the Ferland EEDC. He said there will be a state-of-the-art biomedical engineering teaching lab. The offices for biomedical faculty and graduate students will also be located on the third floor.

“The building is designed to allow mechanical and biomedical engineering to double in size so that we can increase the number of engineering graduates to help meet the needs of Maine and beyond,” Humphrey said. “The building serves not just engineering, but the entire campus. There are five collaborative classrooms set up for active learning that will be used by classes from all majors. The campus Welcome and STEM Outreach Center will be on the north end of the first floor. Campus tours for prospective students will start here. There will be offices for UMaine Admissions and for STEM outreach through 4-H and UMaine Cooperative Extension.”

Students Projects

Engineering students are excited about the many opportunities for learning and training the new building will make possible. Each student in the engineering program is responsible for completing a senior capstone project and for helping a Maine community with an engineering problem. Senior Sarah Glatter recently collaborated with fellow engineering student Sena Algul to create a teddy bear “Alphabuddy” which can assist toddlers to learn the alphabet. Another student, Ally DiFilippo, was involved in converting a vintage basketball board into an analog and digital clock for the town of Fort Fairfield. She said they’re trying to modernize it with more controllable motors, more energy efficient LED lightbulbs, and a web-based interface, “while also making sure that the charm and spirit of the original piece of history remained intact.”  

Another engineering student, Madeline Blair, has been working with a civil engineer professor to find a way to more accurately predict and analyze crash data. One of UMaine’s mechanical engineering graduates, Bob Monahan, was a co-founder of Uppababy (, a company which designs and manufactures high-end baby strollers, baby car seats and other related products, said Humphrey.

See this Section as it appeared in print here