NASA artifacts find new home with Baylor

The uniforms of former astronauts are set in a display case Thursday afternoon until they will be moved along with other NASA artifacts into the new BRIC building located across the Brazos river on Highway 6 from Baylor’s campus.Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor
The uniforms of former astronauts are set in a display case Thursday afternoon until they will be moved along with other NASA artifacts into the new BRIC building located across the Brazos River on Highway 6 from Baylor’s campus.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Jade Mardirosian
Staff Writer

The Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) will become the new home to prominent NASA artifacts, upon the building’s completion in 2012.

The BRIC is the first project of the Central Texas Technology and Research Park, which encompasses approximately 21 acres on South Loop Drive.

The former General Tire Facility is the location of the BRIC, and renovations have been underway on the building since Sept. 2010.

Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research, explained how the NASA artifacts are planned on being used once the building is complete.

“We are talking about embossing the national artifacts into the architecture of the building, as well as producing some other science, technology, engineering and math space because Baylor… has had a very aggressive outreach program to school systems called GEAR UP,”. “The idea is that students who are brought on a tour of the BRIC will see something cool and perhaps [that will] spark an interest in them to study that area.”

Jim Kephart, director of program development for the Baylor Advanced Research Institute, explained that Baylor acquired the artifacts through a program NASA began in anticipation of the shuttle program ending.

“Through this program, [NASA] is issuing out pieces of the shuttle, experiments that have flown on or behind the shuttle,” Kephart said. “Universities, museums and federal agencies were able to select [artifacts] and then justify why their venue would be the best place in the country for them.”

The artifacts Baylor will receive include a piece of a leading edge wing of a shuttle, rocket thruster cones from a shuttle, a tethered satellite system that was tested in orbit, 18 different pieces of clothing— including shirts that were worn on two of the three different shuttle missions— a ceramic tile from a shuttle and three 7,500 square feet parachutes that were designed to test the crew return vehicle.

“We are working very closely with Perkins + Will, the architects on the BRIC, to make sure each of these are showcased so they not only perform a science, technology, engineering and math function, but also guide visitors to the various areas in the BRIC that deal with those types of research,” Kephart said.

Kephart explained the plan for the display of the artifacts would keep in mind the concept of the BRIC, which has four major components.

One component will be research facilities for Baylor graduate students and collaborative industry and university research.

Another will be local, national and international high technology industry facilities.

The third and final component will be space for workforce technology training and workforce development for Texas State Technical College, and the last component will include the aforementioned space for science, technology, engineering and math programs as well as space for meetings and research symposiums.

Although the building is not yet complete, the BRIC has already been recognized on a global scale. The BRIC project was recently selected as one of eight worldwide finalists competing for CoreNet Global’s 2011 H. Bruce Russell Global Innovators Awards.

“It is very exciting that even before we have the building open we are attracting a lot of attention from people saying this is a good paradigm to try,” Hyde said.