CALIFORNIA, MD (January 27, 2022) — Designed by Cooper Carry to inspire collaboration between government and industry partners, as well as university faculty and students, the newly opened Southern Maryland Autonomous Research and Technology (SMART) Building at the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland (USMSM) is helping pioneer technology in the Unmanned Autonomous Systems (UAS) space.

Housing academic and innovation facilities under one roof, the SMART building is a cross between a traditional educational environment and an enterprising research institution that supports the development of high-tech autonomous machines capable of traveling by air, sea, or land. The building features the Maryland Autonomous Technology Research and Innovation Xploration (MATRIX) Lab which includes an 80’ by 60’ open-air land lab, an outdoor terrain lab for vehicle testing, augmented reality and virtual reality research space, a robotics lab, and a circulating water channel. The project also includes numerous maker spaces including a machining shop, woodshop, 3D print labs, project assembly space, and an electronics shop for the design and fabrication of autonomous vehicles. Students are taught in 16 flexible classroom spaces and engineering teaching labs equipped with state-of-the-art technology for enhanced learning and laboratory equipment. 

Located near the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center and the UM Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, the building was created in partnership with the Maryland General Assembly in an effort to enhance job creation in the automation arena. Governmental defense agencies work hand-in-hand with students, faculty, and researchers on various research initiatives, encouraging synergic engineering and analysis. 

In keeping with the collaborative nature of the facility, the design team, led by Brent Amos and Brian Campa, worked across various studios at Cooper Carry, including the Higher Education, Science + Technology, Experiential Graphic Design, and Interior Design Studios to implement the design strategy. Highlighting “engineering in action,” the building’s design places learning on display to visitors and the wide variety of building users. 

“We designed a space that seamlessly connects the missions of students, faculty, researchers, and STEM industries to prompt new avenues of innovation and create opportunities in autonomous science and artificial intelligence,” said Brent Amos, principal in Cooper Carry’s Science + Technology Studio. “We were excited to incorporate amenities from both the non-science and science perspective, from public meeting spaces for colleagues and students to highly sophisticated lab spaces that allow cross-collaboration between distinct groups. Each of these elements helps create a truly functional research facility that sparks imagination and tangible solutions.” 

Cooper Carry created a master plan for the complex oriented around a new campus quadrangle that replaced a former surface parking lot. Featuring connective pedestrian pathways, the design allows building users to easily traverse the expansive facility and access varying research rooms. Sustainability and wellness were integral to the design. The design features bioswales to manage and convey stormwater through aesthetically pleasing natural systems, floor-to-ceiling windows that offer picturesque views of the wooded natural landscape, a building envelope designed to reduce energy consumption, enhanced indoor air quality, state-of-the-art lighting and electrical systems, and biophilic design principles that connect users to the natural environment. Signature perforated metal screens on the south and west facades provide shading and protection from harsh sun conditions while still allowing daylight and views from interior spaces. The project is registered with the certification goal of LEED Gold®. 

Located in St. Mary’s County, the building is positioned to serve as an economic engine for the region, bolstering research and development initiatives around the naval, aerial, and technology industries already present in the area, including the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport, the Naval Air Station Patuxent River and TechPort, an incubation space for business technology. Fostering growth in high-demand careers, the SMART building strengthens the university’s ability to train the next generation of leaders in STEM industries within the community and beyond.  

“The SMART Building designed by Cooper Carry reflects a common purpose, as we join forces with the department of defense and industry partners to reinforce career opportunities and evolve our curriculum to keep in step with what our region needs to thrive,” said Dr. Eileen Abel, Executive Director of USMSM. “Integrating high-quality research with academia helps move the needle forward in making emerging industries more accessible for our student population while advancing the work of existing institutions here in St. Mary’s County. Cooper Carry helped us craft an environment that affirms these goals and lays the groundwork for decades of future innovation.” 

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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