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New buildings planned for MTU

Rendering provided by Michigan Technological University This rendering shows what the H-STEM Engineering and Health Technologies Complex planned for Michigan Technological University. Groundbreaking on the new facility set for may.

HOUGHTON — There hasn’t been a new building on Michigan Technological University’s campus since the Great Lakes Research Center was dedicated in 2012.

That is set to change in the coming years with two buildings in the works.

Groundbreaking on the campus’s H-STEM Engineering and Health Technologies Complex building is set for May, with a grand opening in January 2024. Tech also made a capital outlay request to the state this month to fund the Center for Convergence and Innovation (CCI), which would house the business and computing colleges at a yet-to-be-determined location.

The five-year capital outlay plan submitted to the state this month includes $130 million for two phases of the CCI, and $69 million for the second phase of the H-STEM building. The state would cover $60 million for the CCI and $30 million for the H-STEM, with the university picking up the rest.

The first phase of the CCI is scheduled to begin in 2023 and finish in 2026; the second phase is on the same timetable, but a year later.

The H-STEM building’s second phase is scheduled to start in 2027 and be completed the next year.

Michigan could decide on approving the outlay plan sometime this summer, Huntoon said. After that, the university would begin considering design and examining utilities.

“I would suspect if we were granted approval to move forward, it would be at least a year before we know exactly where it’s going to go,” she said.

Launched in 2019, the College of Computing came from the university’s Tech Forward initiative as a way to grow the university. The college was also founded with the idea that it would cross over into other disciplines, said Jacqueline Huntoon, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Michigan Technological University.

When the College of Computing was founded with the idea of “CS + X” offerings, where a person’s major could bring computer science into another discipline, Huntoon said. The college saw a 10% increase from Fall 2020 to Fall 2021, and is poised to double

She said the new building would help fully integrate computer science with business.

“In a university, like Michigan Tech, where we are really tasked with serving the industries of our state by preparing students in generating new knowledge, making sure that we incorporate these computational aspects into business preparation as well is becoming increasingly important,” she said. “And so in working with the deans, it became clear that much like computing, business is now something that if we’re going to improve the industries of our state, we have to think about all the time, and we have to think about how science and engineering impact business and how business decisions can impact progress in science and engineering.”

The connections will be encouraged by reconfigurable spaces and theme-based shared digital lab facilities throughout the building. Additional features of the building will include convergence centers of excellence (fintech, cybersecurity, data science and business analytics, health informatics, and tech-based entrepreneurship), active-learning, computer-learning, and remote-learning classrooms, flexible collaboration spaces open to all, student learning centers, open access conference rooms, a reconfigurable digital maker space, entrepreneurship training hall, and large, mid- and small-sized lecture halls, according to the outlay plan request.

The second phase of the CCI would include space for public-private partnerships. Part of that includes business incubators such as the MTEC SmartZone’s, Huntoon said. Businesses could also get involved with Enterprise programs or work with faculty on short- or long-term projects.

“So we’re really trying to contribute to economic development, both in this local Houghton/Hancock area, but also maybe bring some people from elsewhere in the state up here to find out what we have to offer which might promote economic development and investment in this area in the future,” she said.

The CCI’s eventual location is being discussed as part of Tech’s master plan, which is being worked on this school year. The President’s Council met with the campus master planning team this week to present concepts for how the campus might look in the future, Huntoon said.

“It could, for example, end up in the parking lot across the street, or it could end up down near Walker in that parking lot or someplace else as yet to be determined,” she said. “So we haven’t made a commitment for that yet, because we’re trying to let this full campus master planning process go forward before we decide.”

The H-STEM building has gone through design, followed by an iterative process of making sure the design fits within the university’s budget, Huntoon said.

The first floor will have an open collaborative space where students can study or work with colleagues, Huntoon said. It can also be partitioned for lectures. The open space of the main foyer will stand out among Tech’s buildings, which mostly date from the mid-20th century, Huntoon said.

“Having open collaborative spaces was not something that was common at that time, but it’s very much valued by students today,” she said.

Rather than assigning a researcher to a laboratory, the laboratories will be designed for a specific purpose, which different faculty and students can use as needed, Huntoon said.

“We’re really hoping that this will be more economically effective, because we can have people sharing equipment and resources, but also just more a development of science and engineering perspective, putting people together who might see problems from different perspectives should really help us think about creative ways to solve those problems,” she said.

The first classes at the H-STEM building are expected to be in fall 2023, Huntoon said.

The second phase was pushed back to accommodate the CCI, due to Tech’s push to strengthen computing-related disciplines, Huntoon said.

“We’ll build the Phase 1, and I’m sure we’re going to learn some lessons as a result of that construction project and figure out what works really well and what we wish we had done differently,” Huntoon said.

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