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Engineering gifts to bring students together

by Krista Habermehl, MA'05 | January 30, 2017

Engineering gifts to bring students together
Western Engineering is currently raising $6 million in donor funding to support the construction of a new building, dubbed Three C +, pictured here in an architectural rendering.

A modern, dedicated space that encourages innovation and collaboration among software engineering students is what young alumnus James Harquail, BESc’15, envisioned when he proposed his family foundation support Western’s new Engineering building.

The James Harquail Software Laboratory will be a space where students can work together, problem solve and create using leading-edge equipment thanks to a $100,000 gift from The Midas Touch Foundation.

Harquail family photo
Through The Midas Touch Foundation, the Harquail family, from left, James, Sofia, David, Birgitta and Peter, are helping provide collaborative work spaces for future students.

“Software engineering is done entirely in the lab,” Harquail said. “We spent many late nights yelling at our computers and working together there. You don’t work on your own or do things independently the way you would in other fields, so it’s important to have a dedicated, collaborative environment to work in.”

With his Western experience fresh in his mind, Harquail felt it was easy to make the case to support the new Engineering building, a $50-million project that requires at least $6 million in donor funding to see it through to completion.

“It’s hard to give to a cause you’re distant from. For me, I felt this was a fantastic opportunity worth fighting for. It feels great to be able to give back and to contribute to an actual working space where future students will spend their time,” he said.

Informally dubbed ‘Three C+’ for its planned spaces to ‘connect, collaborate and create’, the new 100,000-square-foot building will serve an expanding population of more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate Engineering students in an inspiring environment that integrates classroom theory with collaborative hands-on learning. As a potential Platinum LEED certified building, Three C+ itself will be a living laboratory and a showcase for intelligent and sustainable design.

It’s the innovative features and collaborative spaces aimed at enhancing the student experience that inspired Western Engineering Associate Dean (Undergraduate Studies) Michael Bartlett to make a personal contribution of $25,000 in support of the new building.

Western Engineering Associate Dean, Michael Bartlett
Western Engineering Associate Dean (Undergraduate Studies), Michael Bartlett, personally supported the new building.

“Making a donation is the opportunity to gently coax an initiative in a direction you think is appropriate. I spend a lot of time here. There is a connection with this place that goes beyond a workplace connection — this gift is a way of strengthening that connection,” Bartlett said. “The new building will offer student experience space that we’re desperately needing now. It will have the collaborative aspect, which is very important in the practice of engineering, and will foster the family-like environment we have here at Western Engineering.”

Bartlett was also thrilled with the architecture firm’s suggestion to survey Western Engineering students to glean a better understanding of what students felt was important in a new building.

“The design team really understood our desire to enhance the student experience. It’s exciting to see a number of ideas the students themselves identified as being important reflected in the current design of the building,” he said.

Some of the features students requested were: more spaces for labs; prototyping maker spaces; design group spaces; case study-style classrooms; lounge spaces for socializing; quiet spaces for study; working spaces for group learning; expanded experiential learning in laboratory; design and collaborative spaces; and breakout rooms for small group projects.

“Students are using their laptops and mobile devices for all parts of their education; they are doing more project work; they are doing more collaboration. The excitement of Three C+ is finding new ways to deliver that education,” said Western Engineering Dean Andrew Hrymak. “I thank The Midas Touch Foundation and Professor Mike Bartlett for sharing our vision and helping us bring this new space to being.”

Construction of Three C+ began in mid-December and is expected to wrap up in time for classes to begin in September 2018.


This article appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of Impact Western
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