Boeing Commits $6M to Iowa State University Innovation Center

The Chicago-based aerospace company has chipped in to fund the university’s Student Innovation Center, which will focus on building hands-on engineering and technology experience.

by Vanessa Miller, The Gazette / November 15, 2018

(TNS) — The Chicago-based Boeing Company — known worldwide for designing, making, and selling airplanes, rockets, and missiles — has committed $6 million to Iowa State University in hopes of enhancing the educational experience for its students, especially those eyeing engineering paths.

A large chunk of the Boeing gift will support construction of Iowa State’s evolving Student Innovation Center — a 140,000-square-foot project scheduled for completion in January 2020. Of the endeavor’s $84 million price tag, $40 million is coming from the State of Iowa.

The university has to raise the remaining $44 million from private sources — like Boeing.

Boeing’s gift also bolsters the university’s ongoing $1.5 billion “Forever True, For Iowa State” fundraising campaign, which launched its silent phase in 2012 and became public Sept. 30, 2016. It’s slated to wrap June 30, 2021, and $1.1 billion has been raised for the campaign to date.

In a statement, Boeing Chairman, President, and CEO Dennis Muilenburg praised the emerging Student Innovation Center, envisioned as a state-of-the-art hub for hands-on projects and student collaboration.

“Boeing is committed to inspiring the next generation of innovators and equipping them with the skills they need to excel in the modern workforce,” Muilenburg said, adding the center “will help encourage innovation on campus and in graduates’ future careers, positioning them for success in STEM-related fields.”

Students from across Iowa State’s undergraduate colleges will tap the new five-floor center, which will offer space and resources for planning, designing, and creation — including labs and workshops and technology.

But part of Boeing’s gift will go specifically toward supporting engineering students pursuing undergraduate research. ISU’s College of Engineering — the largest on campus with 8,194 undergraduates and 1,337 graduate students — actively engages students in “meaningful research” across its departments and disciplines.

“The foresight Boeing has shown through its long-standing support of hands-on collaborative learning environments across campus and educational opportunities beyond the classroom is a testament to its innovative focus as a company and its commitment to ensuring engineering students are well-prepared for early success in their careers,” ISU Dean of Engineering Sarah A. Rajala said in a statement.

Boeing also supports Iowa State and its students by involving representatives in student organizations and competitions, classroom visits, and recruitment. It supports ISU programs that, among other things, immerse students “in activities that test their skills and build their knowledge within their major.”

Innovation center head

As Iowa State plows ahead with its innovation center construction, it also is moving forward with its internal search for an inaugural director of the facility.

Faculty members James Oliver and David Ringholz have been identified as finalists.

Oliver, a mechanical engineering professor, came to Iowa State in 1991 and has directed the Virtual Reality Applications Center since 2004. He also has directed the university’s graduate program in human computer interaction since 2003 and is co-founder of BodyViz, a technology startup focused on medical visualization.

Ringholz, associate professor and chair of industrial design, joined Iowa State in 2010 to establish the program in the College of Design, which boasts 1,742 undergraduates this fall. Industrial design accounts for 200 of those students, making it the second largest program in the college.

“He has grown the department significantly, including developing a robust industry engagement program,” according to Iowa State officials.

A new center director will provide leadership and vision for the new facility — including the implementation of academic programming. And he will foster engagement with students and external stakeholders.

©2018 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.