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Development News

U of T unveils plans for newfangled engineering building

The proposed Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship at U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering was unveiled Oct. 29. According to one of its biggest proponents, it represents a great leap forward in the often retrogressive world of engineering education.

Designed by Montgomery Sisam Architects in Toronto and the UK’s Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, the new building -- estimated to cost considerably more than the $50 million already raised for it – is meant to encourage students to learn from each other as much as from the lecturers.

The 500-student auditorium will be the centrepiece as well as a model of how the school intends to conduct its teaching in this realm. Professor Emeritus Ron Venter, former chair of mechanical engineering and a consultant on the current project, explains.

"Normally the seats are next to each other, and the lecturer stands in front," he says. "We are trying to build the lecture theatre so it will still be tiered, but instead of the seats being one next to another in rows, the rows aren't there. What you've got are tables, a work surface with six students or four students being able to sit around, to discuss things in groups. You can lecture, but the group has a dynamic going on on its own. Then that group can interact with the lecturer. Everything is electronically connected, so if you've got a laptop on your table looking something up and find something that's pretty good that supports what the concept is of the lecture going on, you can, with the lecturer's approval, be beamed onto the Jumbotron at the front."

Another novel concept is the "alumni attractor" rooms, conceived as a place engineering alumni can hang out with current students, do some of their own work, and casually mentor the next generation.

If Venter’s optimistic timetable were followed, ground on the new building, to be put up next to Simcoe Hall on land that's currently a parking lot, would be broken next fall, with completion set for December, 2016.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Ron Venter
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