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Ford Motor Engineering Center to Be Dedicated

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September 27, 2005 | by Megan Fellman
Ford building

Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center will be dedicated Thursday, Oct. 6, opening the doors of a new state-of-the-art teaching facility where engineering students at Northwestern University’s Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science will experience a “culture of design.”

Northwestern University President Henry S. Bienen; McCormick Dean Julio M. Ottino; Gordon Segal, University trustee and CEO of Crate & Barrel; and Anne Stevens, group vice president of Canada, Mexico and South America, Ford Motor Company, will be among the speakers at the dedication ceremonies.

The dedication of the $30 million building will be held at 1:15 p.m. at the main entrance at 2133 Sheridan Road on the Evanston campus. Tours of the six-story, 84,000-square-foot facility will follow for invited guests; the public is invited to tour the building from 4 to 6 p.m.

Ford Motor Company donated $10 million toward the new building. Other corporate donors include ITW, Deere & Company, 3M and Steelcase.

“We are extremely grateful for the generous support of the Ford Motor Company,” said Bienen. “This new building underscores Northwestern’s commitment to providing the highest quality education to future leaders in engineering.”

“Ford Motor Company is honored to have our name on this important new engineering center at Northwestern University,” said Stevens. “It is by actions like our sponsorship of this facility that we are able to give back to the communities in which we do business and promote ingenuity and engineering excellence for future generations.”

At McCormick, an innovative engineering curriculum called Engineering First® incorporates design into students’ learning as soon as they set foot on campus. Freshmen get an early, comprehensive start on their future careers: creating new things to improve people’s lives. Students interested in pursuing design after their first year have a wealth of opportunities, both academic and extracurricular.

The new building is home to Engineering Design and Communication (EDC), a key program that previously had leased space off campus. The two-quarter EDC course provides hands-on design work for first-year students. A Writing Program instructor co-teaches the course, guiding students on how to communicate design progress and solutions to multiple audiences including clients, peers and faculty. EDC is the only required first-year engineering design course sequence taught by engineering and writing program faculty in the country.

EDC student teams have been vitally involved with the building’s design -- suggesting external facades for the building, recommending EDC studio classroom configurations and designing the work tables for the EDC classrooms. Other EDC student teams have designed toys for children with motor deficits; a single-tip cane that can convert to a four-pronged cane for the physically handicapped; and a better method for cleaning paint brushes and rollers. They also redesigned the student dining area in McCormick.

The Institute for Design Engineering and Applications (IDEA) is another curriculum innovation that integrates design throughout every level of the engineering curriculum, from the project-based first year to senior capstone design courses to graduate-level design experiences. IDEA students have worked on products including the NÜberwalker, a device designed to assist stroke patients regain proper gait patterns, and the development of blast-resistant materials to provide additional protection to both civilian and military vehicles.

Now such designs will come to life in the new center. Presented with real-world problems from clients, students will work their ideas out in the CADD (computer-aided drafting and design) lab and rapid prototyping area located on the sub-basement level and then move those plans up to the basement-level “factory floor.”

The large flexible, barrier-free workspace with its concrete floor is where designs actually get built. Students will use the design prototyping lab and fabrication facilities, which includes machinery such as lathes, milling machines and large saws, to build design projects both large and small. Rolling carts with hand tools can be shuttled between work areas. Three adjunct faculty members who are fabrication experts oversee the student work, and the fabrication area is open 24 hours a day.

These cutting-edge design facilities inspire the creativity, team learning and collaboration across disciplines that are necessary in engineering design, said Ottino, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering.

“The Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center will enable McCormick to more effectively teach design, as well as the communication skills that are essential in the engineering profession,“ said Ottino.

Other occupants of the center are the Walter P. Murphy Cooperative Engineering Education Program; a portion of the department of electrical engineering and computer science; the department of civil and environmental engineering’s Infrastructure Technology Institute; and three professional master’s degree programs: the Masters in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics; the Master of Product Development and the Master of Management and Manufacturing. (The Master of Management and Manufacturing Program is run jointly by McCormick and the Kellogg School of Management.)

In addition to the fabrication and prototyping facilities and the CADD lab, the building features a vehicle testing area, a mechatronics lab for building circuit boards, a 60-seat classroom, a conference room, research labs, group study rooms, project display areas and a student commons area. Faculty from the department of electrical engineering and computer science have offices on the third floor. Chemical engineering and bioengineering labs and computer science labs are located on the sub-basement level.

Five of the building’s six floors, including one of two below ground, are flooded with natural light. A glass-walled atrium with skylights stretches from the ground floor to the third floor. Stepped planters on the building’s west façade lead down to a large below-ground-level window that provides light to the fabrication area on the basement level.

The building is connected by bridge to the Technological Institute, which houses the McCormick School as well as the department of chemistry and the department of physics and astronomy.

The center is the first University building built with the specific goal of being certified in environmental sustainability by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System®. (See related story.)

Ford Motor Company also supports a scholars program for selected incoming freshmen; an undergraduate research awards program for sophomore engineering students and their faculty mentors; senior-year capstone course advanced-level design challenge projects; the development of instructional technology videos and teaching modules to enhance the core competencies for freshmen and sophomores; and Northwestern’s continued involvement in the Sunrayce program, which allows an undergraduate team to conceptualize and design a solar-powered automobile over an 18-month period and compete in national races.