Catalyst building coming to Cheney and Spokane EWU campuses

Graphic+of+Cheney+catalyst+building+.

Lance Kissler

Graphic of Cheney catalyst building .

By Ryan Hatten, Contributor

EWU’s STEM programs will be experiencing growth on both the Cheney and Spokane campuses from the development of the Catalyst building.

Once the Catalyst building opens this fall on EWU’s Spokane campus, the university will be transferring several of its programs from Cheney to Spokane. Among those moving will be some programs from EWU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (CSTEM), primarily computer science, electrical engineering and visual communications. With this movement, EWU’s STEM programs will be able to expand in Spokane and Cheney alike.

“Catalyst is going to transform all of the applied programs in STEM,” said David Bowman, EWU’s dean of CSTEM. 

Bowman went on to explain the geographical disadvantages of STEM’s current location in Cheney and how the Catalyst building will allow students to interact more frequently with Spokane’s growing technology industry. 

He stated that most of Eastern Washington’s tech companies (including computer science, cybersecurity, graphic design and Avista) have firms based out of Spokane and that EWU has had difficulty developing opportunities for students to engage with individuals from these industries.

“[Catalyst] really gives us an opportunity to take our electrical engineering, computer science, and our design teams and put them downtown where those businesses are,” said Bowman.

“Catalyst is going to transform all of the applied programs in STEM,” -David Bowman, EWU Dean of CSTEM

However, as EWU transfers several programs to Spokane, other STEM fields will be able to further expand on the Cheney campus as well. Bowman even gave a direct example of how their mechanical engineering program has been challenged by the current space constraints.

“All of the students have to go through the robotics and automation lab, that’s sort of a hallmark of our [mechanical engineering] program,” Bowman said. 

However, due to the size of STEM’s other programs, they only have one laboratory available for robotics and automation. 

“That means that we can only put approximately 130 to 150 students through that course sequence per year … that defines the size of the major, that’s a hard upper limit, and our ability to grow beyond that has been really constrained.”

Martin Weiser, EWU’s chairmen of the Engineering & Design department, explained how the development of Catalyst will give STEM some much needed room and allow programs to grow.

Lance Kissler
Graphic of Spokane catalyst building.

He stated that with EWU’s engineering programs moving to the Catalyst building, the remaining programs, including mechanical engineering, mechanical engineering technology.

 “Will not be as space constrained as we have been,” Weiser said.  “This will give us new opportunities to expand and recruit additional students.”

Weiser also stated that with additional space on the Cheney campus opening up soon, they are working to add additional faculty and lab equipment so that once Catalyst opens this fall, they can begin expanding programs.

Similar to how developing the Catalyst building is allowing students to form closer connections to Spokane’s tech industry, Cheney’s remaining mechanical and technology programs will be expanding at the same time as manufacturing companies advance into the West Plains.

“The same way Spokane and Spokane Valley have seen a boom in tech industries, my feeling is that the West Plains are in the next decade going to see a boom in advanced manufacturing,” said Bowman. 

In addition, Bowman explained how EWU’s engineering and manufacturing programs have had an influence on companies moving into the West Plains. 

“Over the last year, there has been [reporting] about an electrical car company from California that’s moving up here,” Bowman said.