Sunday, October 07, 2012

Laramie County marches forward into the future with new NWSC and visitor center facilities

Two building dedications take place during the next two weeks in Laramie County. They point the way toward a future that local Know Nothings and no-growthers and Agenda 21 wingnuts are trying to stop.

The first and most spectacular of these buildings is the new NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) in the North Range Business Park just north of the gigantic Wal-Mart Distribution Center and just east of the Big Wind-Power Farm on the Prairie. The building is a marvel of energy efficiency, taking advantage of Wyoming's weather to super-cool the super-computer. The facility will get at least 10 percent of its energy from wind power.

The NWSC will be open for initial public tours from noon-4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16; and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17. Thereafter, self-guided tours of the visitor center will be offered 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays. Large groups are asked to call ahead to make reservations at (307) 996-4321.

This comes from a UW press release:
The visitor center contains several display stations, which will focus on science, supercomputing and the NWSC, plus a section dedicated to younger visitors.
The science section will focus on science and research from NCAR, the University of Wyoming and the atmospheric sciences community. Some examples include climate models, wildfire simulations, wind shear studies and carbon sequestration. How these examples affect people’s everyday lives, improve safety, and help inform policy and decision making will be included.
The computational science display will provide an introduction to computational science; convey challenges and research, including limitations and explorations of new frontiers; university collaborations and programs; and the role of computational science in everyday life.
Finally, the exhibit also includes a section about the societal impact of research conducted at the NWSC. Climate, microbursts, wildfires, winds, aviation safety, solar phenomena, extreme weather and advances in forecasting are among the subjects covered.
There will be a center dedicated to younger visitors. It will have touch screens and a video of a mini-tornado simulation that kids can play with. There will be a station that measures how quickly you can swipe your hand across a sensor, and then tells you how many calculations the supercomputer can do in that amount of time.
Gizmojo, a Cheyenne company, was chosen to create and build the visitor center.
The second dedication is for the Southeast Wyoming Visitor Center. It opens for public inspection at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12. The $13 million center is on I-25 at the new High Plains Road exit near the Wyoming/Colorado border. It's a LEED-certified building with some of its power coming from solar panels and some from aerodynamic windmills atop the rise leading up to the building. On the building's northeast side is an art installation by Laramie's Stan Dolega. Stan thinks big and works big. BTW, his sculpture is funded through the state's 1% for Art Program, in which a percentage of a public building's costs go toward exterior and/or exterior art, often (but not always) created by a Wyoming artist.

Inside the visitor center are exhibits. One if a Columbian Mammoth cast. These also are hands-on stations for kids, wildlife exhibits and video displays. You can also peer through the many windows at the snow falling outside, the traffic zooming by, and the huge McMurry Business Park sprouting up on the other side of the interstate. One will be able to see the sprawling tank farm for the storage of oil being pumped via fracking out of the Laramie County underground. Another aspect of the state's multifaceted energy economy.

Sometimes all of this new development seems a bit haphazard. You wonder if anyone in the city and county are planning for the future. Growth is good, but there should be a plan.

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