The College of Engineering at Valparaiso University aspires to have the best faculty, staff and students. Now there's an infrastructure to match those aspirations.
The Donald V. Fites Engineering Innovation Center is a nearly $13 million addition covering over 13,000 square feet made up primarily of laboratory and learning space for undergraduate engineering students.
The dedication for the state-of-the-art facility, which opened at the start of the 2011 academic year, is Saturday.
College of Engineering Dean Kraig Olejniczak said the opportunity to build the facility gave them a chance to custom-design spaces and allows students to be taught how engineering is done in the real world.
"What separates a good engineer from a great engineer is the ability of the engineer to really excel in the laboratory," Olejniczak said.
Engineers are creative problem-solvers, Olejniczak said, and it's not sufficient to just have knowledge of solving complex problems.
"It's very important they have the ability to design experiments, execute experiments and analyze data, and from that data make conclusions on their work," he said. "The only way you get good at that is to practice and have laboratories to practice in."
The center includes two suites of labs designed for student research and a senior design space that is based on the business incubator concept.
"The concept here is to get different kinds of engineers to interact with each other in a team environment," Olejniczak said. "And each team rubs elbows with other teams. The layout allows interaction that is very valuable because it emulates the real world.
"The facility is focused on students having better experiences in the labs, which allow them to become more proficient and competitive when they enter the job market."
The new building is named after Donald V. Fites, a 1956 civil engineering graduate who is the retired CEO and chairman of Caterpillar Inc. and a member of the Valparaiso University Board of Directors.