Gateway to the Innovation Campus

WSU student Subash Bhandari looks at a smart-skin sensor in the EEB’s Biomedical Sensors, Imaging and Modeling Engineering Lab.

WSU student Subash Bhandari looks at a smart-skin sensor in the EEB’s Biomedical Sensors, Imaging and Modeling Engineering Lab.

Students, industry and community collide in Experiential Engineering Building

In the 18-month-old Experiential Engineering Building on the Innovation Campus, Wichita State students are discovering how a state-of the-art facility with advanced equipment and collaborative spaces can inspire creativity and innovation.

Ryan Becker is one of them, a graduate student who is working with Professor Kim Cluff on a major NASA grant to develop a smartskin biomedical sensor. On a recent day in the EEB’s Biomedical Sensors, Imaging and Modeling Engineering Lab, Becker gazed around the spacious room crammed with equipment and called it a “massive improvement” over the lab previously used.

“A lot of it is just a matter of convenience, like having the right equipment and materials in the right places,” says Becker, who plans to continue his studies to earn an MD-Ph.D. “That may not sound like a lot, but it’s a matter of being able to focus on what’s important.”

Steven Skinner, interim dean for the WSU College of Engineering, takes a broader view.

“This building embodies the special things we want on the Innovation Campus, like collaboration and cross disciplinary learning,” he says. “Beyond that, it’s increasing our synergy with industry, it’s expanding our university’s interaction with the community and we’re just now starting to see an impact on our recruitment of students.”

Engineering Professor Kim Cluff, left, conducts experiments with the help of student Ryan Becker.
Engineering Professor Kim Cluff, left, conducts experiments with the help of student Ryan Becker.

Donors to the Shock the World Campaign have pledged more than $7 million to help furnish the EEB’s labs with equipment and tools, endow a fund to help the College of Engineering maintain and update equipment, and establish the community makerspace, GoCreate, a Koch Collaborative.

One of the largest donations came from Cybertron International, which donated computers and terminals for most of the facility’s labs and learning spaces. Cybertron’s gift-in-kind has led to greater involvement with Wichita State, including sponsoring popular eSports video game competitions at the EEB.

“We feel invested in what’s happening inside that facility and that has led to stronger working relationships with faculty, students and, really, the entire campus community,” says Shadi Marcos, a WSU graduate who is Cybertron’s president and CFO.

Two companies – Dassault Systèmes and Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence – are housed in the EEB and Airbus’ Wichita facility is next door, giving students an opportunity to network with and learn from the engineers who work there.

“It’s always heartening to see students having lunch with the professionals from these companies,” Skinner says.

The EEB also is home to two high profile programs that give students real-life engineering and entrepreneurship experiences, says Samantha Corcoran, an engineering educator who oversees the programs, which take place in the Project Innovation Hub, the facility’s largest lab. One is the WSU GoBabyGo program, where students design and modify toy ride-on cars for children with mobility challenges. The other is the Koch Innovation Challenge, part of a freshman introductory course in which students compete for funding and scholarships by inventing products and technologies.

“The goal is to prepare students in their very first year to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and learn the value of creativity, innovation and teamwork,” Corcoran says of the Koch Innovation Challenge. She describes the Project Innovation Hub as “an inspiring space that gives our students the freedom to think big and creatively.”

The EEB has come to be known as the gateway to the Innovation Campus and the facility is home to GoCreate, a makerspace open to the public, which enhances Wichita State’s engagement with the community.

“GoCreate is attracting entrepreneurs, artists and hobbyists from all over the community who want to take their ideas to the next level and work in a collaborative, inspiring environment,” says John Tomblin, WSU vice president for research and technology transfer. “It’s helping WSU fulfill its mission to be an economic driver for the region.”

Industry partners also visit the EEB frequently to utilize technologies available in the 3DEXPERIENCE Center, a partnership between Dassault Systèmes and WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research. The facility includes laboratories for Additive Manufacturing, Reverse Engineering, Virtual Reality and Robotics and Automation.

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