Think about everything at a college that changes over a decade. Students come and go, yes, but 10 years is enough time to witness transformations. Progress in research offers hope for the future; state-of-the-art facilities beckon top professors; ideas for rethinking education have time to take root.
The past few years have ushered in plenty of changes that, over time, will fundamentally alter the character of Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering (CoE). And, like many gradual shifts in higher education, the changes are in large part thanks to donor support.
Campaign Georgia Tech, the largest effort of its kind in Institute history, ultimately raised over $1.8 billion, and CoE brought in $544 million of that. The support boosted the College’s strength and reputation in countless ways: It named the Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering. It aided the construction of the Marcus Nanotechnology Building and allowed for a total overhaul of the Jesse W. Mason Building. It established a dean’s chair and endowed all eight school chairs. And, it helped create more programs with an international focus, like the Joe S. Mundy Global Learning Endowment at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
With the campaign now over, the College is starting to take full stock of its effects. CoE programs are considered some of the best of their kind both nationally and globally. The College has the resources to shape great engineers, and it also has the flexibility to evolve as entrepreneurship becomes more central to engineers’ experiences.
This year, we’re spotlighting the College’s achievements through the lens of Campaign Georgia Tech, because unflagging donor support has always been essential to CoE’s preeminence.
Corporate support can play a big role in the College of Engineering's success, and a recent gift from Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) promises to do just that. Georgia Tech received a $3.2 million gift from TI to support the construction of the Texas Instruments Plaza and Maker Space for the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The TI Maker Space will offer a dedicated, project-based lab area for undergraduate courses that cover subjects such as embedded systems, analog devices and communications, as well as senior design projects. The plaza and the maker space will be located, respectively, adjacent to and in the Van Leer Building.
This gift reinforces TI’s commitment to support both research and a hands-on learning environment to educate future engineering innovators. TI is an enduring partner in Georgia Tech’s efforts to provide an experiential learning environment for Tech students, according to Steven McLaughlin, Steve W. Chaddick school chair in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
“Georgia Tech is focused on providing an environment that nurtures project-based learning and professional leadership,” McLaughlin said. “Inside the TI Maker Space, electrical and computer engineering students — as well as students from other disciplines across Georgia Tech — will work together to solve technology design challenges that will not only give them the necessary project skills for career success but also provide the experience to address problems facing the industry and the world.”
Engineering projects again grabbed the spotlight at some of this year’s biggest Georgia Tech events. At the spring Capstone Design Expo, interdisciplinary team Hub Hygiene won the overall competition. The team, which aimed to reduce bloodstream infection rates, showed off a device that cleans a needleless IV connector. The group members hailed from biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, and materials science and engineering majors.
Each Capstone Design Expo showcases senior projects from about a dozen Georgia Tech schools (most of them in the College of Engineering). The idea is for students to create prototypes that solve problems, though projects at the Expos are as diverse as the students themselves.
Meanwhile, another engineering team won the 2016 InVenture Prize competition, which brings together student innovators from all academic backgrounds across campus to increase creativity, invention and entrepreneurship. The two-person team behind FireHUD invented a real-time monitoring system and Head Up Display that provides biometric and environmental data to firefighters and officials outside. The goal is to decrease the level of uncertainty firefighters face.
The inventors – Zachary Braun, a computer engineering major, and Tyler Sisk, an electrical engineering major – won $20,000 plus a free patent filing and a spot in Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech accelerator that helps company founders think about their business model and formation.
Donating to CoE is not the only way to give back. Programs designed to foster innovation at the College, like CREATE-X and the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program, also rely on a broad network of support from faculty, students, alumni and others. (And sometimes that inspires financial support after the fact.)
In 2015, Tech alumnus Chris Klaus donated $2 million to CREATE-X, an Institute-wide initiative to build entrepreneurial confidence in undergraduates. That was an important step, and now, others are helping grow the program through mentoring, volunteering and teaching. For example, CREATE-X is sustained partially by the involvement of members of Atlanta’s startup community, and many alumni – some in technology fields, but others in areas like law and business – also pitch in to mentor students.
The VIP program, meanwhile, brings faculty members, undergraduate and graduate students together to tackle challenges in multiple research areas. While VIP is not exclusive to CoE, it requires students to work with their teams over several semesters; older students graduate, returning students continue on as well as teach new students. Over time, their collaborative endeavor evolves and climbs toward a definitive solution. The program has drawn considerable attention, and it was ultimately awarded a $5 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to drive systemic reform of STEM education.
All of CoE's eight schools are recognized as some of the top programs of their kinds, but sustained success requires tremendous resources. During Campaign Georgia Tech, all the engineering specialties offered by the College attracted impressive levels of funding, which will help ensure continued leadership in engineering education.