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The Back Story: The Cube

Professor Moses Karakouzian wanted to create a structure that captured the essence of the College of Engineering departments. Here’s how his Cube came to be.

UNLV History  |  Jan 30, 2016  |  By Taryn Barnes
The Cube

“The Cube” sculpture in the courtyard of the Thomas T. Beam Engineering Complex represents disciplines of Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering at UNLV. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

Engineers and artists might seem like polar opposites, but just take a look at your dream car, said civil engineering professor Moses Karakouzian: It has to run well and look good.

With that in mind, he set out to create a piece that showcased the aesthetical side of the discipline. The Cube — a sculpture in the courtyard of the Thomas T. Beam Engineering Complex — was officially unveiled Dec. 21, 2015.

“I had the idea that we needed to have something artistic that could symbolize the engineering college,” said Karakouzian, better known around the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering as Dr. K.

The Design

Karakouzian mocked up a version of The Cube which balances on one vertex. It’s six sides represent the college’s engineering disciplines: civil, mechanical, computer science, entertainment, construction, and electrical.

He pitched his idea to the college’s dean and departments heads. Once he got the green light, the project became a collaborative effort.The Cube

The college’s machine shop director, Terry Kell, stepped in to figure out the materials needed for the project. Helga Watkins, interim dean of the College of Fine Arts, assisted with color and artwork refinement.

The team decided to fabricate the cube of aluminum, a lightweight but durable option. Staying in step with the university colors, the cube was painted scarlet and gray. The paint is a powder coating due to its resistance to heat and other harsh elements.

Alumni Lend a Hand

Karakouzian reached out to former student Layne Weight, ’03 BS and ’08 MS Civil Engineering, now a project manager and structural engineer, to help design the foundation for the 500-pound, life-size sculpture. “We had to have some structural capacity to withstand the wind and the weight so that it wouldn’t topple,” Karakouzian explained. “(Weight) did the structural design, which was approved by the state of Nevada.”

Karakouzian also enlisted the help of another former student, Glen Maxwell, ’02 MS Civil and Environmental Engineering, vice president of Penta Building Group. “I called him about my project and he agreed to help out and donated the construction (labor) for the foundation, including the excavation and concrete work.”

The fabrication of the The Cube itself took patience and precision. “The holes for the screws had to be within .001 of an inch accuracy,” explained Karakouzian. Because the machine shop’s mission is to serve academics, work had to be scheduled around student projects over the course of a year.

With the assistance of the alumni, the final build time was a much shorter process than fabrication. Once the permits were approved, it took a couple days to pour the concrete, a couple weeks for it to set, and then a few more days to finish mounting The Cube.

Perhaps even more impressive than a 500-pound cube that sits on one point is the financing of the project. The aluminum for the sides was salvaged from leftover material in the machine shop. Alumni donated the structural design and concrete, and much of the labor was done on campus. “The only expense that we had was the powder coating, (otherwise) 95 percent of the expenses were donated.”

In 2013, The Cube was just an idea. Now it has come to fruition and is a source of pride for the engineering professor. “A lot of students pass by and look at it. I’m very proud of it.”