Texas Tech System receives 6,000 acres in state’s “Big Empty” region for research, learning labs

An open place between the Dallas-Fort Worth region and Amarillo has been converted into an observatory for celestial bodies. This space was previously known as the “Big Empty,” and it was converted by the anesthesiologist Fred Koch by putting together thousands of acres over the past couple of decades.

To learn more about astronomy or to attend “star parties,” students and local groups can visit the 3 Rivers Foundation’s Comanche Springs campus in order to take advantage of the lack of unnatural light and camp.
But during the pandemic, Koch and his wife moved to Australia, sending them searching for someone to preserve and expand the educational aspect of the property.
On Tuesday, they announced that they’ve found that caretaker. Koch is donating 6,000 acres to the Texas Tech University System.

Tedd Mitchell, the University System Chancellor, mentioned that they are planning to expand the campus in order to bring in students and others who might have interests in other areas of science, like agriculture. This is because the donation they received is the largest piece of real estate that the university system has received in past years.

Universities are looking for opportunities to give students hands-on experience in agricultural sciences. Mitchell said the land gives students the opportunity to have a 6000-acre hands-on learning laboratory: Whether it’s organizing wilderness rescue simulations, learning to manage agricultural land or cedar mitigation, he said, the educational opportunities are almost limitless.

According to Mitchell, this would benefit not only the region but the whole state. This will also help the scientists who are working in the agricultural field within their universities in order to vastly expand their capacity for research. This would also help them to fill any gaps related to prevalent issues like water and the rapidly declining quail populations.

The property being donated includes telescopes, observatories, classrooms, laboratories, a pavilion, and lodging for students, faculty, and visitors, according to the university system. It also features undeveloped areas. It will be overseen by the Tech system, which will handle operations, collaborations, and the use of the property along with the system’s institutions and the local community.

Koch, a native of Quanah near the Texas-Oklahoma border and a distant relative of the politically influential billionaire Koch brothers, graduated from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in 1975. He said in a press release that he’s willing to help shape the future of learning where students are encouraged to engage with the world around them.

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