Famed physicist, futurist, and author Michio Kaku cut the ribbon on Rose- Hulman's new Student Innovation Center during the 2011 homecoming celebration. The 16,000-square-foot facility is now home to several student competition teams which are part of the college's Advanced Transportation Systems (ATS) Program.

President Matt Branam, Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Fenoglio, Trustee David Hannum, Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Coons, and Vice President for Academic Affairs Phil Cornwell joined Kaku in the grand opening celebration.

Rose-Hulman's EcoCAR2, Human Powered Vehicle, Rose Efficient Vehicle, Rose Grand Prix Engineering, and Team Rose Motorsports competition teams will now be housed under one roof in this leading-edge, dedicated facility. It was constructed with room to grow which will provide space for future senior design projects, and other student innovation pursuits.

Previously, such teams were scattered among various locations, including Rose- Hulman's South Campus. The addition of the Student Innovation Center to the main campus will allow students to more easily access their projects.

"We are very excited to have this new flexible workspace. It was designed from the outset for team synergy," says President Branam. "Now, students will have a large area on campus where teams can work together at all hours. Tools, large lifts, and overhead cranes can be moved around and easily shared between teams to allow for greater collaboration. Teams will also have the opportunity to watch each other at work, provide feedback, and gain inspiration from each other."

Terre Haute native and third-generation alumnus, David Hannum, encouraged the students to use the space to the fullest, even if that means getting the shining new facility a little messy. "Don't forget that this is a 'garage' and a lot of cool things happen in a garage," Hannum says.

In addition to highlighting the Advanced Transportation Systems teams, the grand opening also provided a venue for showcasing innovative projects from other academic departments, as well as Rose-Hulman Ventures.

The facility was completed in record time. The project broke ground at the close of the 2010-2011 academic year, and construction and facilities staff, along with ATS team members and faculty, pulled together to ensure that the space was finished and all teams and projects were in place for the grand-opening celebration.

Zac Chambers, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Advanced Transportation Systems Program, noted that the new facility would enhance students' hands-on experience.

"The new Student Innovation Center is a bold step forward for Rose- Hulman's already stellar education focus," Chambers states. "Allowing teams to be in close proximity and to share ideas, skills, and resources will help them become the technical innovators of tomorrow," he adds. ■