October 25, 2018, BY Matt Hughes

Patricia Cupay takes a photo of Academic East
Patricia Cupay ’21 photographs the steel frame of Academic East. Cupay and Lauren Sanchez ’19 are documenting the construction of Bucknell's new 78,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building on Instagram. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

When it opens in August 2019, Academic East, Bucknell's new 78,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building, will provide students across all eight engineering majors with a cutting-edge space to learn by doing and pursue their intellectual passions. But for several engineering students, the learning opportunities have already begun.

Since construction on the facility, which will also house the Department of Education, commenced in April, Lauren Sanchez '19 and Patricia Cupay '21 have been observing closely to gain insights into their future careers and spread knowledge among their peers. Working for the dean's office of the College of Engineering, Sanchez, a mechanical engineering major from Los Angeles, and Cupay, a civil engineering major from Beach Park, Ill., last spring launched the @bucknellbuilds Instagram account to offer an inside glimpse into the construction. They also recently started a blog on the Bucknell website to provide more detailed information about what's happening at the site and share more photos.

Patricia Cupay ’21 (left) and Lauren Sanchez ’19 launched the @bucknellbuilds Instagram account last spring. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

"Everyone passes by the construction site, but they might not know what's actually going on, especially as the project moves to doing more internal work," said Cupay. "It doesn't all look familiar to me either, but I'm learning more, and in my classes a lot of things are becoming more tangible."

They're among a growing number of students and professors finding opportunities for learning and investigation in this large-scale construction project. This summer, civil engineering majors Matt Geiger '19 and Peter Leary '20 joined them through internships with Bucknell Facilities. Embedded with the Planning, Design & Construction Group, the students got an inside view of the Academic East project, as well as smaller-scale campus renovations, including updates to the lobby of Bertrand Library and to Smith Hall. As Geiger and Leary shadowed Bucknell project managers, met with contractors and inspected construction progress, they gained a new perspective on both their future careers and their university.

Crews lowered the final steel beam atop Academic East during at topping-out ceremony on Sept. 17. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

"As a senior looking to get into in the industry, it made me think more about what I'm most passionate about," said Geiger, who is from Collegeville, Pa. "Getting to go behind the scenes allowed me to see in depth what project managers actually do on a site, which was invaluable since that's a potential career for me."

"We could see the crossover between the different fields of civil engineering in real life," added Leary, who is from Winston-Salem, N.C. "If you just look at Academic East, in that one project you can see connections between geotechnical engineering, water resources engineering and structural engineering."

The interns said the experience also exposed them to the factors that Bucknell administrators must account for when they make plans to address competing needs.

"From behind the scenes, you can see the need that Bucknell is addressing, versus asking, 'Why do we need that?'" Leary said. "I'll definitely feel more attached to the building when I get to use some of these spaces."

Sanchez (left) and Cupay walk the Academic East construction site with Ron Ziemian, associate dean of engineering and professor of civil & environmental engineering. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

As they seek to educate their peers about interesting aspects of the new building, the @bucknellbuilds interns have had to stretch their own outlook and understanding as well.

"It's been genuinely challenging for me to work on a project that heavily involves civil engineering," said Sanchez, the mechanical engineering major, "but I like experiencing other aspects of the engineering community. I'm on an interdisciplinary senior design team, and working together with people from different majors is a challenge there, too. I felt like this project has been good for helping me expand my focus."

Cupay and Sanchez will continue documenting the project until its completion in August 2019. Follow them at @bucknellbuilds on Instagram and at the Bucknell Builds blog.