University of Florida Unveils New Engineering Building Designed for Next Wave of Innovation

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Photograph of the Herbert Wertheim Laboratory for Engineering Excellence on the University of Florida campus

This story was originally published on The Gainesville Sun website.

The University of Florida’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering celebrated the opening of its Laboratory for Engineering Excellence on Thursday morning. 

The new steel and glass building is meant to provide educational enrichment for engineering students, employing a nontraditional classroom style where lectures are watched online and classroom time is dedicated to hands-on work, said Erik Sander, the executive director of the Florida Engineering Experiment Station and director of UF’s Engineering Innovation Institute. 

Classes in this building are for all types of engineering students, and it especially focuses on leadership and innovation, Sander said. 

Hans van Oostrom, the chair of the Department of Engineering Education, said he was involved in the design of the building and some of the educational spaces, and he thinks the students can truly learn makerspace skills with state of the art technology.

“They just love to work together and learn together, and it creates a community rather than everybody on their own,” von Oostrom said. 

The new building includes state-of-the-art tools and technology, including advanced 3-D printers, a prototyping lab, a 50,000-psi water cutter that could cut titanium, and a global teleconferencing facility with 27 screens to work with alumni and companies all over the world, said Helen Goh, the college’s director for marketing and communications.

The building opened this semester after starting construction in October 2016, Goh said. Construction was completed before 2021, but the pandemic delayed the opening alongside a shortage in materials like lumber and aluminum. 

The project’s cost was $72.5 million, including utility upgrades to this area of campus, said Hessy Fernandez, the director of issues management and crisis communications at UF. Its cost was funded through a $300 million public-private partnership between the state, UF, Herbert Wertheim and the college’s alumni and supporters, Goh said.