Science & Technology

Next-Level Engineering

A proposed building would stimulate collaborations and spark discoveries.

Rendering of proposed Engineering building

The proposed facility would be “a vibrant, multifunctional, signature engineering building.” College of Engineering

Faculty and students in the UW–Madison College of Engineering are conducting research to address some of the world’s most pressing problems. They’ve recently made advances in preventing traumatic brain injuries, recycling plastics, and improving personal protective equipment during the pandemic.

But current space limitations prevent the college from having an even greater impact through research and education.

That’s why the University of Wisconsin System has made a new engineering building a top priority in its 2021–23 state budget request. The goal is to replace the 64,000-square-foot building at 1410 Engineering Drive with a 340,000-square-foot facility worthy of a tier-one research university.

“We’re looking to create a vibrant, multifunctional, signature engineering building,” says Ian Robertson, the college’s dean. “It will stimulate collaborations, spark discoveries, and allow us to attract and retain the engineering talent we need to solve the challenges we’re facing in society.”

The college typically receives 7,000 applications per year but can accept only about 1,000 students. The new building would nearly double enrollment capacity while offering the resources to prepare students for success in a field that’s very different today compared to even 10 years ago.

“We hear from companies that it’s no longer enough for engineering graduates to know their own disciplines,” says Robertson. “For example, mechanical engineers now need to know some electrical engineering and materials science. The new building will allow us to bring in multidisciplinary educational experiences.”

The planning process began with a 2015 space analysis, which found that replacing the antiquated building would be more cost-effective than renovating it. Construction would begin in 2023, with the first phase completed in fall 2025 and the second in fall 2027. The college is requesting $150 million from the state and will raise another $150 million in private gifts and grants. Governor Tony Evers ’73, MS’76, PhD’86 included funding for the building in his capital budget proposal; the legislature is expected to act on the budget in June, sending the final bill to the governor in July.

Robertson says the College of Engineering’s future is at stake.

“We need the new building to remain competitive with our peers so we can continue to produce excellent engineers and conduct the kind of research we’re known for.”

Published in the Summer 2021 issue


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