Illinois Institute of Technology officially broke ground today on its first new academic facility in 40 years with the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship. The Kaplan Institute will serve as a one-of-a-kind hub for invention at Illinois Tech, preparing students for the development of meaningful technology innovations that solve complex problems.
Illinois Tech alumnus and long-time member of the university’s Board of Trustees, Ed Kaplan, provided a gift of $11 million to designate the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship on the university’s campus. As a Mechanical Engineering graduate and co-founder of Zebra Technologies, the global leader in bar code technology, Kaplan embodies the spirit of tech entrepreneurship encouraged at the new innovation center, and with his legacy, the space will provide the infrastructure and programming support to foster tech innovation.
“Tech innovation is about making things that solve real, meaningful problems,” said Ed Kaplan. “The Kaplan Institute, through its design and focus on collaboration, will prepare our students to develop meaningful technology innovations by learning how to work together to solve complex problems. This is not just a building; it’s a place where forward-looking, world-class architecture will intersect with a hands-on, STEM-based integrated curriculum.”
Noted Chicago architect and IIT Architecture professor John Ronan of John Ronan Architects leads the design of the Kaplan Institute. The building will feature technologically advanced building materials, systems and sustainable processes, including a dynamic façade of ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) foil cushions on the second floor to vary the amount of solar energy entering the building – the first use of its kind in Chicago.
“The building is an idea factory– a place of creative collision between students and faculty across disciplines,” said John Ronan. “Unlike any classroom building on campus, the Kaplan Institute will be open, flexible and light-filled, designed to encourage unexpected encounters and information exchange across departments; a creative environment where ideas lead to meaningful innovation.”
The Kaplan Institute will sit in the heart of Illinois Tech’s iconic campus, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, to attract students and faculty from all directions. The Kaplan Institute’s design complements the Mies legacy and features dynamic spaces for Illinois Tech’s various project-based, hands-on undergraduate interdisciplinary courses.
“The Kaplan Institute will nurture the advancement of creative ideas, foster interdisciplinary and external collaboration, and create a culture that enables innovation and tech entrepreneurship to flourish,” said Illinois Institute of Technology President Alan W. Cramb. "It will attract students who will learn to convert their creative ideas into significant, viable innovations. They will become the leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs of the future."
At today’s groundbreaking, Illinois Tech President Alan W. Cramb, donors, faculty, staff, students and alumni were joined by key local officials for the community ceremony including City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of the 1st Congressional District of Illinois, U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis of the 7th Congressional District of Illinois and Alderman of the 3rd Ward Pat Dowell. The groundbreaking marks the beginning of the construction phase for the future 70,000-square-foot innovation center, which will be located north of Hermann Hall. The Kaplan Institute is the first academic building to be added to the Illinois Tech main campus since the Stuart Building in 1971.
“Chicago is a global hub for technology and innovation thanks to great academic institutions like Illinois Tech,” Mayor Emanuel said. “Today’s ground breaking on the new Kaplan Institute will help keep Chicago at the forefront of innovation and create new economic opportunities that will reach every corner of the city for years to come.”
Construction for the new innovation center is expected to ramp up by March 2017, with anticipated completion by late 2018. The innovation center will enhance Illinois Tech’s existing hands-on active learning programming which includes the IPRO initiative, The Leadership Academy, Entrepreneurship Academy, Jules Knapp Entrepreneurship Center, Idea Shop and the Chicago Public Schools STEM outreach program Opt4STEM.
A virtual tour and narrative of the Kaplan Institute is available on Vamonde, a free app available at iTunes. Launched by Anijo Mathew, an associate professor at Illinois Tech Institute of Design, Vamonde is an example of the innovation the Kaplan Institute will foster.