COOKEVILLE – Tennessee Tech University broke ground on its new $62 million engineering building on Friday, celebrating the history, legacy and future of the university’s flagship engineering programs and showing appreciation for donors and state support.
The 100,000-square-foot Ashraf Islam Engineering Building will anchor Tennessee Tech’s engineering corridor and fuse innovation, smart building technology and a living water laboratory to foster interdisciplinary and collaborative learning while inspiring new generations of engineers.
“This building represents a major leap forward for the college as we continue to improve the engineering education we are renowned for,” said Joseph C. Slater, Dean of the College of Engineering. “It is designed to reflect the cross-disciplinary nature of modern engineering. In bridging artificial boundaries between disciplines just as they would in the workplace, students will learn to apply their skills outside of the classroom to solve engineering problems in today’s complex teams.”
More than 200 guests celebrated groundbreaking for Tech’s first new engineering facility in 50 years. Located in Sherlock Park, the $62 million showcase is an investment in Tennessee’s only technological university, which annually awards a fifth of the total engineering and computer science degrees from the state’s nine public universities. The state is providing $54 million in funding for construction of the building, which was approved by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission this summer.
Approximately 55 faculty, staff and students from across the university worked across 20 teams during the building’s planning process. With a focus on active learning labs and more than a dozen flexible, collaborative workspaces, the building was designed with one mission in mind, said Tech President Phil Oldham, “Put students first.”
“Putting students first includes providing classroom and laboratories that foster innovation and discovery like the spaces this new engineering building will provide,” Oldham said. “I am grateful for the assistance and vision of our elected officials, our campus leaders and generous donors. This building and its outdoor lab are game changers for our students.”
The building is named for alumnus Ashraf Islam, a highly respected Texas businessman who credits his Tennessee Tech civil engineering degree for his success in the transportation industry. Well known for his philanthropic and professional accomplishments, Mr. Islam has committed $3 million to the building and is among 40 donors supporting the building.
Active learning labs in the facility will apply the most advanced teaching technologies available, while a dozen flexible spaces enable students to collaborate across their majors on solving real-world problems.
“Having a common engineering hub for us to gather, exchange ideas, and work on team projects will help us make connections we really need,” said Jymon T. Scott, a junior electrical engineering major. “Being able to access more technology also gives us opportunities to take what we’re learning outside the classroom.”
The building also features additional space for Tech’s championship Baja SAE team, the award-winning Formula SAE team, and vehicle-related mechatronics. Intentionally designed high-bay doors provide access for large equipment in the future. A hydraulics lab enables a variety of students from different majors to study fluid dynamics. The second floor includes significant space for computer science and computer engineering as Tech continues to lead Tennessee in cybersecurity education through the Cybersecurity Education, Research, and Outreach Center.
The project will also harness Tech’s natural water resources, “daylighting” an underground stream to provide a living, outdoor laboratory for students studying environmental engineering.
“Not only is it an environmentally sound thing to do, it’s also the most direct and accessible way for students to gather water samples,” Slater said. “They can take them straight to the chemical, biological and environmental lab on the building’s fourth floor.”
“The Ashraf Islam Engineering Building is something that will completely transform the college,” Slater said. “I have no doubt that the great gift of labor by everyone involved in this design, the great gift of resources by our gracious donors, and the support from the great state of Tennessee will propel us into a future of which we are just beginning to dream.”