MSOE plans $34 million computational science hall

Funded by largest-ever alum donation

A rendering of MSOE's computational science facility from the north on Milwaukee Street. (Rendering: Uihlein/Wilson — Ramlow/Stein Architects)

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 10:57 am

Milwaukee School of Engineering announced plans today to build a $34 million computational science facility, funded by a donation from MSOE regent Dwight Diercks and his wife Dian.

The new four-story, 64,000-square-foot facility will be built near the corner of Milwaukee and State streets in the center of MSOE’s campus. It will feature a state-of-the-art datacenter, which will include a graphics processing unit-accelerated supercomputer that will be used by students and local industries, university officials said.

The new computational science facility will position MSOE as a national leader in artificial intelligence education, deep learning, cyber security, robotics and cloud computing, university officials said.

Diercks, who graduated from MSOE in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering, is senior vice president at NVIDIA, a technology company based in California. He also holds an honorary doctor of engineering degree from MSOE and has served on the board of regents since 2005.

The gift is the largest donation from an alumnus in the university’s 114-year history.

“MSOE changed the course of my life and my career, and has a special place in my heart,” Diercks said. “Just as the modern computer transformed technology 30 years ago, AI will transform technology as we know it for the next generation and across all industries. I wanted to give MSOE a gift that would position this incredible university as a major application-focused computer science and artificial intelligence center for the Midwest and U.S. for years to come.”

Diercks said AI is transforming industries with applications including material science, photo identification, ride-sharing logistic, self-driving cars, manufacturing logistics, medical imaging, among many others. Artificial intelligence is the subject of the latest BizTimes Milwaukee cover story.

John Walz, president of MSOE, said the facility will be used by students across many disciplines.

“This facility will not only allow MSOE to educate the next generation of leaders and technical professionals, whether in engineering, computer science, business or nursing, it will also allow us to provide leadership, expertise and extraordinary computing power to local industries in the increasingly important field of artificial intelligence,” Walz said.

The facility will feature an area dedicated to corporate partnerships, which will include nine offices and workspaces for local corporations to collaborate with the university.

Other features of the new building include eight classrooms, 13 labs, 28 offices for faculty and staff, a 250-seat auditorium and 18,000-square-feet of underground parking.

Ryan Phillipsen, a freshman at MSOE studying computer science, said the new computational science hall will broaden course options for students like him.

“I’m excited for all the new minors and electives for the computer engineering department and computational work that we need to do,” he said. “I’m really excited about it.”

Jonathan Cobb, a freshman studying biomolecular engineering, said the technology in the new facility will be groundbreaking.

“If you don’t know what it is, start learning,” he said. “This is definitely where the future is heading.”

Construction is expected to get underway next year with completion expected for mid-to-late 2020. Uihlein/Wilson — Ramlow/Stein Architects is the project developer. A video of the building is available on the Uihlein/Wilson — Ramlow/Stein Architects website.

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