New Studio for UTDesign Program Aims to Nurture Big Ideas

UT Design studio launch

Members of the eBike team work on their UTDesign project in a secured project room.

Bigger may translate to even better for the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science’s award-winning senior design program.

UT Dallas leaders recently opened a new studio for the UTDesign program, the corporate-sponsored capstone senior design program. At more than 30,000 square feet, the studio is one of the largest in the country, program leaders say. The studio houses 29 project stations, which can be expanded to 56. The studio includes a computer lab, machine shop, seven conference rooms (including a Cisco TelePresence room), five secured project lab rooms, a seminar room and more than $550,000 in state-of-the-art equipment donated by local companies.

The program started in 2009 with just six projects in electrical engineering. It now boasts more than 40 multidisciplinary projects each semester in computer science, and computer, electrical, software, telecommunications and mechanical engineering. UTDesign collaborates with students from the University’s Naveen Jindal School of Management and Arts and Technology (ATEC) program.

When biomedical engineering seniors join UTDesign next year, all of the engineering and computer science programs will be together in one facility. Last semester, UTDesign received the Tech Titan of the Future Award from the Metroplex Technology Business Council, the largest technology trade association in Texas.

“I have been involved with engineering education and senior design for more than 30 years, and I can sincerely say I have never seen better students or better projects than I have seen the past years at UT Dallas,” said Mark W. Spong, dean of the Jonsson School and founder of the UTDesign program. “Our new studio marks the beginning of a new phase in UTDesign. With these facilities, the student outcomes and quality of the projects can only get better.”

UTDesign Studio Ribbon Cutting

Dr. Mark W. Spong (front, left), founder of UTDesign and dean of the Jonsson School, and Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, the University's executive vice president and provost, officially open the project lab.

The open design project room has already inspired Alejandro Hernandez Jr., a mechanical engineering senior and member of the UT Dallas BattleBot Team.

“I love it,” Hernandez said of the new studio. “It is a big space, so it fits big ideas.”

One UTDesign team moved into one of the secure project rooms before the official launch. Team members are known for spending any spare time in the new studio.

“If we are not in class, we are over here,” said James Smiley, an electrical engineering senior and member of the eBike team.

Their eBike project is sponsored by Texas Instruments and is housed in a project room accessible only via access code. Such rooms were built for teams working on proprietary projects. John Randall, president of Zyvex Labs and co-chair of the Jonsson School Industrial Advisory Board, said project security is critical for potential corporate sponsors. He also praised UTDesign leadership for finding solutions.

“That fear is largely alleviated because, from the very start, UTDesign leaders had these kinds of projects in mind,” he said.

While the studio is primarily for UTDesign students, several engineering student organizations, such as the BattleBot team, will have dedicated space in the studio. Hernandez, the BattleBot team member, said having the space will make them better at building their robot. Before the studio opened, pieces of the 120-pound robot would have to be transported between campus, a student’s home garage and a sponsor’s corporate office in downtown Dallas.

UTDesign Studio Launch

The studio will also be home for some student organizations, such as the UT Dallas BattleBot team.

The new studio is located at Synergy Park North at 3000 Waterview Parkway in Richardson, and replaces the former studio that was housed in the Waterview Science and Technology Center (WSTC). That space is now used for faculty offices.

“At a time when the most pressing needs and the most challenging problems at UT Dallas are finding space and other resources to accommodate our very rapid growth, the support of Provost (Hobson) Wildenthal and President David Daniel, who enabled the construction of this facility, is truly remarkable and affirms not only their commitment to engineering education, but also their vote of confidence in me, in faculty and students and sponsors,” said Dr. Spong, holder of the Lars Magnus Ericsson Chair in Electrical Engineering and the Excellence in Education Chair.

Corporations who sponsored equipment for the new studio include Agilent Technologies, Cisco, HP, MSC Industrial Supply Co., National Instruments, Newark, PTC, Stratasys and Texas Instruments. Equipment donations ranged from a 3-D printer donated by Stratasys, to the first inventory vending machine operated by a tablet created by MSC.

“The studio was designed to expose students to projects, environments and equipment that they will encounter from the moment they step into their new offices following graduation,” said Rod Wetterskog, UTDesign program coordinator and assistant dean of corporate relations for the Jonsson School. “This early exposure will give them a competitive edge and help them excel in their future workplaces.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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