Student Innovation Center displaces student organizations

Members of ISU Team PrISUm recharge their solar powered race car Phaeton after the first day of competition at the Formula Sun Grand Prix in Austin, Texas last week. 

Members of ISU Team PrISUm recharge their solar powered race car “Phaeton” after the first day of competition at the Formula Sun Grand Prix in Austin, Texas last week. 

Andria Homewood

A time comes when change must happen, and for Iowa State, the next big change generating buzz lately is the Student Innovation Center.

The Student Innovation Center, a proposed 175,000-square-foot building, will stand where the Nuclear Engineering and Old Sweeney are currently placed. These buildings, while old and in need of some tender loving care, are full of memories for two major student organizations on campus. For them, leaving their workspace is bittersweet.

“There’s history here,” said Ryan Perera, business director for Iowa State’s solar club Team PrISUm and sophomore in aerospace engineering. “It sucks losing the building because we’ve been here for about 25 years.”

Team PrISUm will be temporarily relocated to Applied Sciences 4, while the Gaffer’s Guild, a glass blowing student organization, has not made any final decisions on where it’ll be relocated.

The move for the Gaffer’s Guild will have positive and negative impacts, said Steve Martin, distinguished professor of material sciences and engineering.

“We’ll certainly be able to clean stuff up and throw a lot of stuff away. It’ll help us make things more efficient,” Martin said. “There’s no doubt we’ll be down for a long time. We’ll lose a semester of glass blowing.”

These clubs have a lot of equipment and tools, which will pose a challenge for them to move when the time arrives. 

“[We have] a very large furnace that we keep the glass at molten 24/7,” said Robert Rojina, president of the Gaffer’s Guild and senior in mechanical engineering. “That’s going to have to be emptied, cooled, dismantled, moved and then reassembled.”

Both organizations need to find time to move out all of their equipment by the fall semester; however, they’re remaining positive about moving into new space and building relationships with other student organizations.

“We are with eight different student organizations in [Applied Sciences 4],” said Matt Goode, project director for Team PrISUm and senior in mechanical engineering. “So it’s going to be a lot of sharing tools. But at the same time it’s going to help the team because there’s a lot of valuable assets the other engineering club brings that can aid us in the development of our next vehicle.”

The steering committee for the Student Innovation Center worked with these student organizations to find the space they need and have renovated it in order for them to continue their projects. They hope the new Student Innovation Center, once completed, will be a place where students from all over campus can come together to make great things.

“One of the things we’ve been talking about is making what’s going on in the inside of the building visible from the outside of the building” said Gary Mirka, associate dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering. “[We wanted] to create a space where you’re actually seeing students working on interesting and cool projects.”

Both student organizations, along with the other temporarily displaced student organizations, will be welcomed back into the Student Innovation Center when it is completed. Team PrISUm hopes the new Student Innovation Center will result in more interest from students who are not on the engineering side of campus.

“Solar Car involves so many different majors” Goode said. “We need [public relations], a marketing crew, we need business majors, we need designers. [With] a brand new building that’s open to all majors with … big glass walls for you to see us working on our project, we might get more interest from different majors.”

Demolition of Nuclear Engineering and Old Sweeney will start sometime in late 2016 or early 2017. The Student Innovation Center will be open to all ISU students pursuing any major.

“Each [college] does innovation, but does it in different ways.” Mirka said. “It’s a student-focused space for student innovation.”

While the Student Innovation Center won’t be completed for three or four years, the Team PrISUm and the Gaffer’s Guild aren’t holding back on what they love to do most while displaced, which is create and learn.

Team PrISUm will work on its solar car to compete at the international competition in Australia during the fall 2017 semester, while the Gaffer’s Guild will sell its glass creations at the Art Mart in the Memorial Union.