Participants in the groundbreaking included, from left, Paydirt Pete; UTEP President Heather Wilson; College of Engineering Dean Kenith Meissner; U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar; UT System Chancellor J.B. Milliken; State Sen. Cesar Blanco; Associate Vice President of the Aerospace Center Ahsan Choudhuri; El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser; El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego; UT System Student Regent Naleesh C. "Neel" Mutyala; and UTEP Provost John Wiebe. Photo: UTEP

The University of Texas at El Paso broke ground today on the Advanced Manufacturing and Aerospace Center — an $80 million building that will provide cutting edge research and educational space for UTEP’s College of Engineering.

The four-story, 98,000-square foot building is designed to match the campus’ Bhutanese-style architecture and will be constructed on the northeast corner of Hawthorne Street and Rim Road.

Intentionally designed to adapt as research projects change over time and knowledge advances, the center will initially house two of UTEP’s premier institutes: the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation and the Aerospace Center .

We deeply appreciate the support of The University of Texas Regents and the people of Texas who made this expansion of research space possible,” said UTEP President Heather Wilson. “UTEP is a leader in advanced manufacturing and aerospace research. A lot of the machines to do this work are very large. This new building will be a tremendous benefit to the region as we advance technology, attract private sector partners, and spin off new technologies into companies that create jobs.”

UTEP expects to train more than 600 graduate and undergraduate students annually in the facility.

Across The University of Texas System, we work to shape research and academic programming to align with emerging industry needs,” said UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken. “UTEP’s new Advanced Manufacturing and Aerospace Center will enable the University to do just that – providing access to cutting edge technologies and tools in a dedicated facility that will enable new discoveries, while enriching student training and creating new opportunities in these industries of growth.”

UTEP is a national leader in additive manufacturing in a wide range of materials and techniques. UTEP has particular expertise in the use, development and evaluation of laser-based metal additive manufacturing processes as well as embedding electronics and other functionality within 3D-printed materials. In recent years, the University has completed advanced manufacturing research worth more than $100 million sponsored by NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation and other agencies.  

Students who aspire to join the aerospace and additive manufacturing fields will now have the opportunity to learn in this new state-of-the-art facility,” said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, who also spoke at the event. “The research conducted here will support the growing economic activity in the El Paso region centered around advanced manufacturing and aerospace.”

The national and international reputation of UTEP’s College of Engineering and the demand for engineering professionals have continued to grow over the last 10 years,” said Kenith Meissner, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering. “Our college produces approximately 900 graduates a year and has a strong foundation of partnerships with industry. Building on the success of the W.M Keck Center and the Aerospace Center, the research capacity added by the AMAC Building will not only benefit manufacturing and aerospace research but will also expand our innovative translational and entrepreneurial activities, driving strong regional economic growth.”

Expanding our capacity to actively train our students will have a direct and positive impact on the local economy,” said Ryan Wicker, Ph.D., founder of the Keck Center. “This facility will prepare our students to join essential and high-demand areas, which will only improve innovation in our region.”

UTEP also conducts significant research work with NASA, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Energy and other agencies on rocket propulsion, unmanned aerial vehicles, spacecraft design and aircraft safety.

The Aerospace Center has grown from a 3,000-square-foot lab employing 30 students as research assistants to over 35,000 square feet in laboratory space and 8,000 acres of test facilities employing 200 students today and still growing,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., associate vice president of UTEP’s Aerospace Center. “This important investment by UT System honors two decades of determination and hard work by the Aerospace Center and our sister center, Keck, to expand our research capabilities and opportunities for students in aerospace, defense, energy and advanced manufacturing. “Our national research preeminence, our talent pipeline and our thought leadership in the national ecosystem is now being leveraged to create jobs and business opportunity in our community.”

The AMAC includes space for research and fabrication laboratories, administrative spaces and more.

The centers in the College of Engineering maintain strategic partnerships with prominent names in aerospace and defense such as the U.S. Space Force, Lockheed Martin, Blue Origin, as well as other local and national government entities.

In addition to the Aerospace and W.M. Keck facilities on campus, the Keck Center has expanded its research footprint in recent years with the establishment of the 3D Engineering and Additive Manufacturing Technologies Center near Downtown El Paso, and the Aerospace Center has expanded its footprint to include the Spacecraft Design and Engineering Facility in south-central El Paso, the Technology Research and Innovation Acceleration Park at the Fabens airport, and the Unmanned Aerial System Flight Test Range in Tornillo, Texas.    

Construction work for the Advanced Manufacturing and Aerospace Center is expected to be complete by late 2025.

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