Yale’s new innovation and design center to foster ‘culture of engineering’

The Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science has begun construction of a versatile innovation and design studio to encourage the invention and prototyping of radically new, socially beneficial technologies – from robotics and medical devices to renewable energy systems and other innovations yet to be conceived.

The $6.5 million, 8,500-square-foot Center for Engineering Innovation and Design will promote collaborative technology development among students in all class years and a wide range of disciplines. It is scheduled to open in September.

“The establishment of this center underscores Yale’s surging commitment to engineering and technical innovation,” said T. Kyle Vanderlick, dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science (SEAS), which will host the center. “It will foster a culture of engineering at Yale, and by catalyzing collaboration and hands-on design experience, we will produce more ‘Y-shaped’ engineers – engineers whose intellectual depth and breadth allows them to innovate with purpose.”

For the first time, Yale innovators will have a primary, custom-built hub for generating ideas, developing concepts, and producing prototypes for novel devices and processes. These activities now take place in a variety of smaller spaces in the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

Located on the ground floor of the Becton Center on Prospect Street, the new facility is the latest manifestation of Yale’s focus on engineering. The Cesar Pelli-designed Malone Engineering Center opened in 2005, and SEAS is in the process of hiring nearly a dozen additional faculty members, supported by last year’s additional $50 million gift from John Malone ’63. This weekend Yale will welcome more than 100 promising undergraduate applicants from around the country who are interested in science, engineering, and mathematics to highlight the opportunities they’ll find on campus.

John Morrell ’86, a mechanical engineering professor at SEAS and a former director of systems engineering for Segway, will direct the new design center. He also brings a background in medical device development to his new role.

“The center will capitalize on Yale students’ intense desire to create something of purpose,” Morrell said. “While many projects can easily satisfy the criteria of being ‘engineered,’ the projects at the innovation and design center will be driven and supported by the real challenges that face society – energy, health, poverty, and climate, to name a few.”

The courses and projects affiliated with the center will require the application of a broad array of engineering principles and will serve the interests of students and faculty in all of Yale’s engineering majors – biomedical, electrical, mechanical, chemical and environmental engineering. The center will nonetheless be open to students in all majors, for both academic and extracurricular projects.

“Innovation occurs when we get ideas from seemingly unconnected areas,” Morrell said.

Designed to make collaboration easy, the center will offer group work areas, meeting rooms, and fabrication facilities for metal, plastics, wood, biomedical materials, and electronic devices.

“With the addition of the center,” Vanderlick said, “SEAS will deliver a unique engineering experience that prepares students for the daunting but inspiring challenges of technical leadership.”