University program progressing from a pipedream to prototype

The energy and enthusiasm of those who are actively learning might be best described by Steve Jobs: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

This is certainly true for the 3,000 students who are enrolled at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA. Of the 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered, there’s a special kind of energy sparking up around engineering thanks to a new project: The Whitworth Innovation Lab.

Engineering design is a process that requires solving complex problems with challenging constraints. Hands-on experience is a critical part of the curriculum, so a well-equipped laboratory space is essential. When completed, the 16,409 free-standing innovation lab will include a design lab, metal shop, woodshop, 3-D printer and laser cutting, collaborative work zone and storage areas. It will be the perfect place for future engineers to master their craft.

The benefits of Whitworth’s Innovation Lab will also extend far into the community. K-12 students are welcome to use the facility for school projects like robotics, concept experimentation, or exploration like CubeSat, an activity where small satellites are launched in conjunction with NASA. The lab will also be open to the community for prototype development.

Whitworth’s engineering programs and the Innovation Lab encourage the growth of STEM-based (science, technology, engineer, math) career paths.

“Whitworth’s B.S. in Engineering provides a broad interdisciplinary foundation for engineers of the future who can create and utilize emerging technologies; any support towards a well-equipped laboratory space will help prepare graduates in the essentials of engineering design and prototype production,” said Kamesh Sankaran, Ph.D., Professor, Engineering & Physics.

Whitworth predicts thousands of students from a variety of disciplines will directly benefit from the lab and be served by the grant, but especially bioinformatics, biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, environmental studies, health science, kinesiology, math and physics.

The lab is projected to be completed by April 2022 and will cost approximately $10 million to build. Fundraising for the project is still underway. Many local businesses, foundations and individual pledges have already been made.

It is exciting to think about what kind of advancements enthusiastic engineers-to-be will create. Whitworth’s Innovation Lab will surely serve as a creative foundation for changing the world for many years to come.

Together, Avista and the Avista Foundation have given more than $1.5M in charitable gifts across all five states in our service area this year and Whitworth University is one of them.

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