MCC Automotive Training Center Wins ACEC Merit Award

Every year, ACEC Nebraska recognizes exceptional engineering projects across the country. During Engineers Week, the organization announced the 2022 Engineering Excellence Awards, including IP Design Group’s Merit Award for the Metropolitan Community College’s Automotive Training Center. Read on to learn how IP Design Group designed technology standards to help Metropolitan Community College set a new standard for blending hands-on and online learning.

A New Standard

In today’s digital world, education relies heavily on technology. However, some industries, such as the automotive industry, are dominated by hands-on work. When Metropolitan Community College (MCC) began looking at ways to upgrade their facilities and provide more opportunities in the automotive field for more students, they began to explore how technology could be adapted. MCC’s new Automotive Training Center is a 2-story, 100,000-square-foot facility that is home to the Automotive Technology and Auto Collision Technology programs. The building is designed with a variety of spaces to help provide highly-skilled workers to ease the shortage currently faced by the industry.

While the building does feature some traditional classrooms, it was designed to support and promote active learning. Specialized areas for Toyota, Scion, and Lexus required additional technology design considerations. The lobby doubles as a showroom and features a video wall for presentations during large gatherings, as well as digital signage.

A robust WiFi network throughout the facility allows students to take advantage of areas, such as small huddle spaces, to use online resources while collaborating on projects. Auto bays have technology systems to allow instructors to bring up websites, videos, and other virtual tools to aid students in learning. In one bay, the IP Design Group team left spare camera inputs/outputs. This provides MCC with the flexibility to acquire an adapter in the future for a GoPro camera that would allow an instructor to work under cars and stream the video to the in-bay screen for all students to watch and follow along in real time.

A look inside the showroom at MCC's Automotive Training Center
A look inside the showroom at MCC's Automotive Training Center. Photography ©AJ Brown Imaging LLC.
A view of open bays at MCC's Automotive Training Center
A view of open bays at MCC's Automotive Training Center. Photography ©AJ Brown Imaging LLC.

Complex Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic hit while the Automotive Training Center was under construction. Classrooms that had already been designed suddenly needed to be able to support fully-remote learning. To accommodate this, the audiovisual design team added features, such as cameras and microphones to classrooms, to allow for lectures to be recorded or streamed to students outside the classroom.

Areas reserved for automotive painting are considered hazardous because the paint fumes are highly flammable and explosive. This added another level of complexity to the technology design. To overcome this challenge, the IP Design Group team had to consider NEC-classified location requirements in equipment and enclosure designs.

The overall aesthetic of the facility added to the complexity of the acoustical design in many ways. The high-volume ceilings and hard, reflective surfaces used throughout led to higher reverberation. The aesthetic focuses on maximum line of sight, enabling students and visitors to see through much of the building. To accomplish this, glass is used often, including for some classrooms. This presented challenges for limiting speech transmission between classrooms and shop noise between auto bays and the rest of the building. To address noise concerns while minimally impacting the aesthetic, the IP Design Group team recommended a combination of acoustical wall panels, acoustical baffles hanging from the ceilings, and acoustical metal deck on the ceiling.

On Time and On Budget

MCC wanted to have classes in the new facility at the start of the Fall 2021 quarter. The IP Design Group team came in on time and on budget for technology, audiovisual, and acoustical design. Furthermore, they made sure this new facility maintains MCC’s standards for excellence. From a security standpoint, this meant designing each classroom with the ability to be locked down, providing card readers for most doors, and adding security cameras for more site and interior coverage.

IP Design Group has worked with MCC since 2013 to help the college develop and maintain campus technology standards. The team made sure that this new facility also adhered to the established technology standards for the campus, while also making notes for improvements to the standards. These potential improvements and future discussions ensure MCC’s buildings will continue to adapt to new times and technologies.

View inside a classroom at MCC's Automotive Training Center
A view inside a classroom at MCC's Automotive Training Center. Photography ©AJ Brown Imaging LLC.

Congratulations to all the 2022 ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards winners, including Alvine Engineering’s submission for The Farnam Hotel. Here at IP Design Group, we are proud to be part of Nebraska’s vibrant architecture, engineering, and construction community that continues to be on the leading edge of positive industry progress.

Aerial view of the flooding of the Missouri River near Eppley Airfield in 2011.