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SUNY Buffalo State forging ahead with new technology center, enrollment goals

The new Technology Building at SUNY Buffalo State is a symbol of what is happening on the Elmwood Avenue campus.

Opened in September, the $36.5 million building at the center of campus houses some cutting-edge programs and boasts eco-friendly touches, such as a vegetated green lower roof area and 221 solar panels that can generate 50 kilowatts.

The building holds the departments of engineering technology on the first floor, computer information systems on the second floor, and fashion and textile technology on the third floor.

It’s part of a construction boom started in 2008 that by 2018 will create nearly $350 million in construction and other improvements to modernize the campus in the vibrant Elmwood district.

The aim is to stabilize and then increase enrollment.

“We had a high of 11,500, but it has declined for the last three years,” said Howard Cohen, interim president of the college.

“We’re in the process of turning that around now, and the prospects are looking good for stabilizing enrollment for next fall,” Cohen said.

At the Technology Building, students have been drawn to a state-of-the-art fabric printer and a 3-D printer that allows students and researchers to produce three-dimensional working models or prototypes.

“It’s going to be the killer technology of the future,” Cohen said.

“It’s amazing. Imagine building up an object, layer by layer. Think of a ream of paper, with each sheet of paper in the ream printed in plastic. As it goes into the machine, it melts it as it lays on a platform in much the same way an inkjet printer would have laid down letters,” Cohen said.

“Any object you can design on a computer, you can print, including objects that are very complex and that have parts, become easy to make in prototype,” Cohen said.

Almost anything can be printed using these machines, including gears and tools.

“If you print it, you can use as it as a mold and then cast it,” he said.

The technology not only has practical applications for the design and engineering technology students who will train on them, but also for artists and those in local industry.

“For example, a sculptor on campus can use it to make a mold and then do the casting. Also, people from industry that need to make these one-of-a-kind objects can work with us to use our equipment rather than buy their own,” Cohen said.

Once students become adept at using the new technology, the expectation is that their employment prospects will increase as they go into the job market with their new skills. One aim of the college’s investment is to better prepare students for the local workforce while also encouraging innovation and nurturing new businesses in the region.

SUNY Buffalo State also is set to become a partner in Start-Up NY, a plan championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to lure out-of-town companies and startups to tax-free zones located on or near New York’s public and private colleges and universities.

Under the plan, sales, property, business and corporate taxes those companies can be eliminated for 10 years.

Meanwhile, Cohen anticipates that the level of academic and other activity at SUNY Buffalo State will continue to increase.

“The biggest advantage of SUNY Buffalo State is that the size is very conducive to students having an opportunity to develop real relationships with their professors, but the campus is big enough to have a strong array of academic programs, which currently numbers over 100,” the college president said.