STEM Innovation Learning Center wins state approval

By Greg Bird

A proposed STEM Innovation Learning Center inside the WSU Science and Engineering Library got a huge boost recently when Gov. Rick Snyder and state lawmakers approved more than $14 million in funding for the project, their thumbs-up moving development of the proposed center squarely into the planning phase. 

Earlier this year, the university presented state officials its top priority Five-Year Capital Outlay Plan, which included the renovation and repurposing of the vacant Science and Engineering Library building into an instructional learning environment for undergraduate STEM students. Wayne State was among 10 community colleges and universities across the state approved to begin planning their proposed projects.

“The STEM Innovation Learning Center will provide significant benefits to both the university and the state of Michigan,” said Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson. “Our students and faculty will use the renovated facility to pursue STEM education, research, and careers, while the state will benefit through their investment in workforce development to meet future talent demands that will keep Michigan competitive and growing.”

The state has committed $14.75 million toward the project, which is estimated to represent about half of the total completion costs. Wayne State will use philanthropic gifts or bond proceeds to fund the remainder of the project. 

Other projects on the campus that have received state Capital Outlay funding in the past include the Integrative Biosciences Center (iBio), the Marvin I. Danto Engineering Development Center and the Student Center. 

When completed, the project will transform 100,000 square feet of space into STEM learning facilities that will include flexible classrooms, seminar spaces, offices and technology-rich instructional labs that support hands-on and project-based learning. The center also will have maker-hacker labs that offer students interdisciplinary exposure to skill set development that is not possible in most instructional settings.

The project will provide undergraduate instructional laboratories and support spaces for the 25 foundational STEM courses in biology, chemistry, math, and physics. These areas will continue to undergo transformation through the efforts of a National Science Foundation grant titled, “Student Success Through Evidence-based Pedagogies.”

Space also will be provided for courses in engineering, computer science, geology, nutrition and food science, psychology and anthropology, all of which demand more instructional laboratory capacity due to the growth in undergraduate student enrollment.

While new classrooms and labs for Wayne State students and faculty are a major purpose for the building, the project also offers opportunities to expose K-12 students from the Detroit area to hands-on, creative learning situations that can ignite their interest in science and technology and inspire them to pursue STEM-related technical careers or college preparation.

Currently, the STEM programs at the university are housed in a number of venues spread across campus. The STEM Innovation Learning Center also will include space for an Office of STEM Pipeline Initiatives. This office would serve as a focal point for K-12 STEM pipeline programs and activities and would facilitate the coordination and expansion of programs.

The projected completion date for the center is expected by fall semester 2020.

Photo 1: Wayne State University's vacant Science and Engineering Library building will be repurposed into a STEM Innovation Learning Center.



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