UT celebrates grand opening of Engineering Education and Research Center

Sami Sparber

An idea conceived more than 10 years ago became a reality at the Engineering Education and Research Center’s grand opening Thursday.

The Cockrell School of Engineering’s new 430,000-square-foot facility was designed to foster collaboration and community-building among students, faculty and researchers, according to a UT press release. Sharon Wood, dean of the Cockrell School, said the EERC began as a bold vision for the future of Texas engineering.

“The vision required a building that was truly multidisciplinary, that brought out all of our students and departments into one space and encouraged them to work together, to share ideas and to think outside the box to solve the complex global problems that face society today,” Wood said.

Construction on the building began in 2015, according to the press release. Since then, the Cockrell School raised nearly $70 million in donations from over 280 Texas Engineering supporters — the most money ever raised in support of a UT building. The total project cost was approximately $310 million.

The EERC, built near the intersection of Speedway and 24th Street on the previous site of the 50-year-old Engineering-Science Building, provides a much-needed update to the Cockrell School’s facilities, President Gregory Fenves said at the opening.

“Our engineering buildings were isolated from one another; the departments sometimes lived in silos, making collaboration among faculty and students difficult,” Fenves said. “We had classrooms with chairs bolted to the floor, and the labs were from another century and certainly not going to serve the needs to answer the tough questions of the 21st century.”

The National Instruments Student Project Center provides 23,000 square feet of space and tools such as 3-D printers for innovation, while research labs account for 50,000 square feet of collaborative space.

To help centralize resources that were previously spread across campus, the EERC is now the official home of the Cockrell School’s largest department, Electrical and Computer Engineering. It has also brought the school’s advising and career-assistance services under one roof.

“Everything is in this building, which is nice because if you come in with an issue, or even a bunch of different issues, you can get it all solved in the same place instead of having to go to several buildings,” chemical engineering senior Raj Ranganathan said.

According to Fenves, the interior features of the EERC are not the only aspects inspiring creativity. The building itself, namely its glasswork and open layout, exudes excellence in engineering, he said.

“Design and architecture do something for an individual,” Fenves said. “It can awaken a person and ignite ideas and draw those ideas out of them, and that’s what we needed in the Cockrell School of Engineering.”

Ranganathan echoed Fenves’ appreciation of the EERC’s design.

“I think the building as a whole is reflective of Cockrell’s goal for greater collaboration,” Ranganathan said. “The windows allow us to see each other’s work and be inspired by our peers. This is the first building that we have that’s actually reflective of the amazing engineering that we do here.”