Southern makes space for mobile science labs


Photo by Brad Stout | The Chart

The mobile science labs began arriving on campus Monday morning after being purchased from FEMA last week. The buildings will be used for entry-level chemistry classes during the Reynolds Hall renovations.

On occasion, a deal is just too good to pass up. The Missouri Southern Physical Plant demonstrated this when it recently purchased 15 FEMA trailers that combine to make two separate mobile science buildings which will feature classrooms and lab.

The science labs were formerly used by Joplin High School at their mall campus after their school building was ravaged by the tornado on May 22, 2011, but with completion of the new high school were no longer needed. Lot 34 behind Plaster Hall was closed this week while the trailers were transported to campus and temporarily placed in it. An all-student email was sent out on Feb. 6 informing students the lot would be unavailable for several days.

Robert Harrington, director of the physical plant, decided to inquire on the price when he saw them for sale and was initially told $57,500 for all 15 trailers. By the time negotiations were finished, Southern purchased the entire lot for only $9,840. When first installed for Joplin High School four years ago, the trailers cost $940,987.

“When these became available, we jumped all over them,” said Harrington. “We couldn’t pass them up — it wasn’t an option. We basically bought them for one percent of the original cost.”

FEMA also delivered the pods to Southern free of cost.

The main reason for the acquisition of the mobile labs was to provide the chemistry department with rooms during the expected Reynolds Hall renovations.

“(The mobile labs) will allow our department to continue to offer laboratory classes during the potential renovation and will allow for additional laboratory sections, as needed,” said Professor Marsi Archer of the chemistry department. “Even if the funding is not approved, the mobile labs will allow for additional lab space and allow for our department to offer more lab sections, if enrollment continues to increase.”

The rooms will be primarily used for lower level chemistry and lab classes, according to Archer.

The 15 trailers combine to form two separate pods, one with six connected trailers and the other with nine. The larger pod will be 124 feet long and 68 feet wide with two classrooms and four labs on the inside. The smaller pod will be 83 feet long and 68 feet wide. It contains six classrooms and men and women’s restrooms.

The physical plant is considering half a dozen locations for the pods, according to Harrington, but the early favorite for location is on the northeast side of lot 34. While this location would cut into parking, Harrington said it would be the most practical and inexpensive due to utilities such as sewage, water, electric and gas being easily accessible. Fiber optics for phone lines and computers would be the only utility that isn’t immediately available.

“We will have to do directional boring from Plaster to get the fiber optics to the location,” said Harrington. “Again, the location is not set in stone. I’m trying to save as much parking as possible.”

The pods were purchased at an ideal time for Harrington, who will know be able to shut down the entire first floor of Reynolds Hall when they begin renovations.

“I’ll need the whole first floor because we will be tearing out ceilings, updating the fire alarm systems and doing a number of other tasks,” Harrington said.

“I never could have dreamed of building a temporary building for that cost,” said Harrington.