"It is now time for our buildings' infrastructure to match our aspirations for our students' educational experience."
– Associate Professor Jeremy Guest
The ambitious and comprehensive plan to modernize CEE at Illinois infrastructure is designed to accommodate a large student body and facilitate modern instructional methods. To keep up with the evolution of engineering education, faculty are designing classes with more group and project work, and using technology and hands-on experiences in innovative ways to excite students and prepare them to be leaders in the field. To accomplish this, the 50-year old facilities that make up the CEE at Illinois complex need to be upgraded and expanded. The CEE Modernization plan involves four phases:
- Construction of the Yeh Student Center, which brought much needed modern classrooms, meeting rooms and collaborative spaces to Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory. This project was completely funded by donor support, including a generous naming gift from alumnus M.T. Geoffrey Yeh. (Phase I: completed)
- Upgrade the Hydrosystems Laboratory building (Phase II: underway)
- Expand and subsequently renovate Newmark Laboratory (Phases III and IV: projected)
The upgrade will not only provide more space and improve functionality, but will also include key features (see below) that will ensure that CEE at Illinois continues to be a top-ranked program for decades to come.
Hands-on experiences help students understand theory and retain knowledge while training them for their future profession. The upgraded building will increase the opportunity for students to have hands-on experiences thanks to several new laboratories being built, including the Vernon L. Snoeyink Water Chemistry Laboratory, Gary Parker Morphodynamics Laboratory, Resource Recovery Laboratory, and J.L. Merritt Structural Design Laboratory. Please visit our floorplans to see all of the laboratories that will be present in the upgraded building.
Two technology enhanced classrooms in the upgraded Hydrosystems building will provide a flexible learning environment that can be adapted to the needs of a given class. The classrooms will allow for students to sit and work as teams of four to six, with each team having its own monitor to facilitate discussion and encourage interactive problem-solving. Computational tools will enable teams to solve design challenges and project their work to the full class for discussion. As a result, students will move through the learning curve more quickly and also practice their communication skills.
Areas where a handful of students can gather around a table or workspace will encourage interactivity and teamwork, both of which are useful skills for professional life. In addition, the spaces will provide areas to study between classes and facilitate impromptu interactions among students and faculty. The Smart Bridge deck will be almost entirely composed of these collaboration spaces, and a number of other areas are scattered throughout the new building.
In 2017, CEE’s eight-member Curriculum Committee was charged with investigating “what should be enhanced, maintained and/or de-emphasized in the current Illinois CEE undergraduate program in order to continue providing a top-notch education, enabling our graduates to become leaders in responding to current and future societal needs.” The curriculum, which will be implemented in stages, will provide a flow of learning from freshman to senior years, including clear connections between early and advanced courses, between fundamentals and engineering applications, and between engineering analysis and design. Classes will include more project-based learning, hands-on experiences and the use of real-world problems to help students make connections between courses and their eventual professional goals. Students also will have opportunities for more interdisciplinary design and collaboration, as well as systems-level thinking.
“Few investments we make in life are surefire winners — but gifts to CEE at Illinois in support of students, faculty and facilities carry a 100 percent guarantee of contributing to a better future for our nation and people everywhere. ”
Robert H. Dodds Jr.