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Big news in engineering

Ambitious plans for the college, the city and the field of engineering

March 12, 2019

There’s big news in the engineering college: a new name, a new vision and a new building.

To address the first big source of curiosity, the new name is the CU Denver College of Engineering, Design and Computing (CEDC). This name ties into the vision of engineering education that Dean Martin Dunn, PhD, and his team have laid out, which offers near-equal proportions of learning across all three areas – engineering, design and computing.

To achieve that vision, CEDC leaders and faculty are revising curricula, cultivating a new culture, enhancing industry partnerships and planning the physical infrastructure to support it all.

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The new engineering building, designed by ZGF Architects, will bring together engineering departments and programs under one roof.

“To serve our world, which is changing at an unprecedented pace, we are creating an ambitious new model of engineering education,” said Dunn, who joined the college as dean in January 2018. “We will cultivate engineers with powerful computing capabilities; value-creating design expertise; and exceptional human, social and entrepreneurial skills.”

“The question,” said Chancellor Dorothy Horrell, “is ‘What kind of engineers is the world going to need?’ Here at CU Denver, we are perfectly prepared to answer that question.”

The perfection comes in the form of a diverse and dynamic student body, a powerful urban location and an engineering college agile enough to change as rapidly as the world is.

The engineer of the future will be different

Humans are adopting new technologies faster and faster with each passing year. For example, it took 37 years for 25 percent of the U.S. population to adopt telephones; for smartphones, it took just three years.

To meet the rapidly evolving demands of an increasingly technology-driven society, Dunn said the world needs not only more engineers but a different type of engineer – one who has:

  1. The deep technical knowledge and skills that engineers have long possessed.
  2. The ability to exploit contemporary technology to design solutions for society’s complex challenges more quickly than ever.
  3. The so-called “soft” human, social and entrepreneurial skills that engineers may have been excused from in the past.
Building rendering with people helping each other
In the new engineering building, Assistive Technology Partners will have its own entry and reception area leading to exam rooms and spaces where research groups will interface with patients and research participants.

Dunn, Horrell and other university leaders believe CU Denver students are uniquely equipped to grow into the engineers of tomorrow.

“Our students are urban learners,” Dunn said. “They are motivated and purposeful doers who come to CU Denver from diverse backgrounds and experiences, drawn here by the dynamism of Denver and the vibrancy of downtown.”

Engineering education that employers are looking for

Historically, engineers have been employed in traditional important industries – such as aerospace or manufacturing. But now, with outsourcing and automation creeping in, a variety of industries – from health care to agriculture – are turning to technology to adapt to marketplace changes. And they’re looking to engineers for help.

This translates to new opportunities for engineers, as well as new qualifications.

Under the college’s new vision, engineering students will emerge with the skills and qualities that employers need:

  • Strong academic and technical grounding in an engineering discipline
  • Modern computational thinking and algorithmic reasoning capabilities, combined with computing skills in areas of artificial intelligence, robotics, data analytics, virtual reality and more
  • The ability to apply interdisciplinary design innovation principles, methods and processes to deliver creative technological solutions that create value
Building rendering with people working in a lab
The new engineering building’s two-story robotics lab will showcase the assembly and testing of land robots, flying drones and more.

In this vision, design will serve as a framework to engage with ambiguity, identify opportunities and collaborate in diverse teams to develop solutions.

The vision calls for breaking down silos inside and outside the college to enable powerful connections. It involves creating an interdisciplinary “Academy” to foster innovation and emphasizing research driven by societal problems. It entails growing industry partnerships and co-creating curriculum with those partners – i.e. employers.

Engineering, liberal arts and business all mixed into one

To further understand the college’s new model of engineering education, you might think of the curriculum as an entrée of technical education with a side order of liberal arts learning, garnished with business school lessons.

All of this together, Dunn purports, will transform engineers from problem-solvers into value creators – and address the workforce and economic demands of Colorado and beyond.

Building rendering with people working at tables
The new engineering building will feature a highly visible central manufacturing hub with student and faculty lounges and gathering spaces floating above.

To arrive at this model, Dunn leveraged his team in the engineering college, as well has his own diverse experiences in engineering education.

Dunn has worked in private industry, in government service at the National Science Foundation and in various academic settings, including CU Boulder. He was one of the senior leaders in a partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to build a new technical, urban research university in Singapore, which was named the No. 1 emerging innovator in engineering education in the world.

The engineering education expert has arrived in the Mile High City at a time of historic growth, combined with a worldwide demand for a new type of engineer. He and CU Denver are positioned to embrace this opportunity – and soon they’ll have a gorgeous and functional space for the endeavor.

Martin Dunn
“To serve our world, which is changing at an unprecedented pace, we are creating an ambitious new model of engineering education,” said Martin Dunn, PhD, dean of the freshly named College of Engineering, Design and Computing.

A new dialogue with the city we call home

Designed by ZGF Architects, the new engineering building will be on Speer Boulevard between Arapahoe and Champa streets – visible to hundreds of thousands of motorists and pedestrians who pass by each day.

“The building’s strong architectural presence creates a dialogue with the campus and with downtown,” said building architect Braulio Bautista of ZGF Architects. “It invites the campus environment into the building and heightens the sense of connection between downtown Denver and the CU Denver campus.”

Person gives presentation with screen
“The new engineering building … reveals, in a jewel-like way, the exciting new life of the College of Engineering, Design and Computing,” said building architect Braulio Bautista of ZGF Architects at an event celebrating the college’s new vision.

Among the goals of the new building are to bring together engineering departments and programs under one roof; expand classrooms, faculty and staff offices, and student work and study space; nurture a culture of inquiry; serve as a center of innovation and industry partnerships; and put engineering on display to the campus and the city.

Features of the new engineering building:

  • Geode-inspired structure that exposes inside activity to the campus and the city
  • Top-lit atrium to display design projects and host design competitions
  • Two-story robotics lab showcasing assembly and testing of land robots, flying drones and more
  • Multi-purpose fourth-floor space with rooftop terrace affording views of the Denver skyline
  • Collaborative, interdisciplinary learning spaces and research labs for clinical health technologies, computing, manufacturing and more

“The building supports the notion that learning does not stop outside of the classroom,” Bautista said. “[It embodies] engineering prowess and, most importantly, reveals, in a jewel-like way, the exciting new life of the College of Engineering, Design and Computing.”

Construction of the new engineering building will take place in multiple phases, the first of which is expected to be complete in summer 2021.

Crowd of people watching together
Supporters of the freshly named College of Engineering, Design and Computing gathered on March 6 in CityCenter to celebrate a new name, new vision and new building.

The university is executing a fundraising plan to support completion of the building, and a portion of the funding needed for the new building may come from the State of Colorado. The engineering building is on the Colorado General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee’s list of projects under consideration for state funding, pending approval from the senate, house of representatives and governor. A determination on this funding is expected in April.

Supporters of the engineering college gathered on March 6 at an evening event in CityCenter to celebrate the new name, new vision and new building.

Gary Meggison
Engineering alumnus Gary Meggison (BS ’81, MBA ’94) joined a recent celebration at of the new vision for the College of Engineering, Design and Computing.

“My wife, Kathy, and I believe in the chancellor and her vision for the university of prioritizing student success,” said engineering alumnus Gary Meggison (BS ’81, MBA ’94), one of Denver’s well-known commercial construction management consultants. “This building is indeed a jewel in downtown Denver.”

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The new engineering building’s transparent design invites the campus and the city into the research activity inside.