Our History

Founded in 1996 through a National Science Foundation grant and led by Dr. Habib Dagher, the ASCC has grown from the five who originally helped write the funding proposal to more than 410 full- and part-time employees; worked with more than 500 clients world-wide; received more than 40 state, national, and international awards for research excellence; and supported more than 2,600 students from more than 35 academic departments.

A History of Our Facilities

Founding the AEWC

The UMaine Composites Center was founded in 1996 with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Dr. Habib Dagher and Dr. Stephen Shaler, with assistance from Dr. Barry Goodell, Dr. Eric Landis, and Jake Ward, authored a grant titled, “Composite Reinforced Wood Hybrids for Civil Infrastructure Systems.” This grant supported the creation of the Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center (AEWC), and included the construction of a 30,000 sq. ft. facility, major equipment purchases, and new faculty hires.

The grant proposal received top marks from all nine NSF reviewers, which ultimately resulted in the $3.3 million award. Dagher, Shaler, and UMaine’s then System Chancellor Terry MacTaggart turned to the Eastern Maine Development Corporation (EMDC) and Sanford “Sandy” Blitz, who was running the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) program at EMDC. Blitz and the UMaine team wrote a successful $2.2 million proposal to the EDA.

The UMaine team then approached Governor Angus King and successfully raised $250,000 for an EDA-required local match. With NSF, EDA, and state match funds in hand, construction on laboratory’s first section began, and the Center officially opened in 1999. Equipment, however, was purchased in following years with grants through federal and state agencies, including the NSF, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the US Navy, the Maine Department of Transportation, and others.

The First Labortory Expansion

In November of 2003 the Center celebrated its first groundbreaking laboratory expansion. The two story, 7,100 square-foot expansion provided laboratory space geared toward technology development and commercialization. The primary goal of this expansion was to allow space for more research outside of wood composites and structural testing. In fact, the expansion was to enable engineers and scientists to conduct studies involving the shipbuilding industry and continue work on a new product, oriented strand lumber. 

2011 Expansion, Offshore Wind Laboratory

In 2011, the Center officially opened its Offshore Wind Laboratory, adding structural testing of blades, towers, and foundation components up to 230 feet in length to its list of capabilities. This expansion was the first building on campus to receive LEED Gold certification.

2012 Name Change, AEWC to Advanced Structures and Composites Center

Given the continuous growth and widening range of research, it became clear that AEWC no longer encompassed the full extent of research and development activities at the Center. In 2012, at the request of the Center’s director and faculty, the University of Maine Board of Trustees approved a name change, formally renaming the AEWC to the Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC).

2015 Expansion, Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Labs

In 2015, the Center received its largest philanthropic gift to date from the Harold Alfond Foundation to name the $13.8 million Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Labs. The Foundation provided $3.9 million to match the $9.98 million raised by the NSF, EDA, a State of Maine bond, and other sources. The expansion of the Alfond labs brought the total size of the UMaine Composites Center to 100,000 square feet.

A Look into the Past

In 2007, the center received the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) People’s Choice Award for exhibiting the highest degree of design, innovation, creativity and the best use of composite materials to Modular Ballistic Protection System. An award ceremony was held at the center following the announcement.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood visited the center in 2009.
Senator Susan M. Collins, U.S. Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu, and Governor John Baldacci discuss the future of offshore wind energy with Dr. Habib Dagher during an August 2010 visit.
In 2011, the center received the Charles Pankow Award for Innovation by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for the composite arch bridge technology.
Senator Susan M. Collins and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar with a Bridge In A Backpack® during Salazar’s 2011 visit to the Offshore Wind Laboratory.
VolturnUS 1:8 was placed into the Penobscot River at Cianbro’s facility in Brewer, Maine, in late May 2013. From there, Maine Maritime Academy towed VolturnUS 1:8 to its deployment site in Castine, ME.
VolturnUS 1:8 passing under Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Bucksport, ME in early June 2013.
Construction progress during Offshore Wind Lab expansion.
Inside view of completed Offshore Wind Lab expansion.
Panorama in Offshore Wind Laboratory in 2012.
View of UMaine Composites Center following Offshore Wind Lab expansion in 2011.
Aerial view of the UMaine Composites Center in 2015 following addition of Alfond labs. The Alfond labs are shown on the top left.
Construction progress of Alfond labs, shown on December 15, 2014.
Construction progress of Alfond Labs shown on March 11, 2015.
Inside view of the Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Lab form May 26, 2015.
Construction progress, aerial view from May 26, 2015.
Panorama of Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Lab from July 2016.