NewsWinter/Spring 2021

Accelerating Innovation

A growing campus footprint creates new connections

The R.B. Annis School of Engineering’s expanded, state-of-the-art space brings exciting opportunities for collaborative entrepreneurship and discovery. The newly renovated R.B. Annis Hall sparks a transformational time for the University of Indianapolis as programs expand to meet growing workforce needs. 

The Sky’s the Limit

The R.B. Annis School of Engineering launched in 2017 through a transformational, $5 million gift from the R.B. Annis Educational Foundation. The gift honored the late Robert B. Annis, one of Indianapolis’ most revered scientists and innovators.

With more than 55,000 square feet of dedicated space, the wide expanse of the new R.B. Annis Hall is impressive. With its soaring ceiling, the machine shop alone fires the imagination when envisioning the projects that might be brought to fruition here.

That’s exactly the kind of inspiration that Ken Reid, associate dean and director of the R.B. Annis School of Engineering, is hoping to generate.

“We have one of the most innovative engineering programs in the nation, and the R.B. Annis Hall provides the ideal space to bring new ideas to life,” Reid said. 

The expansion arrives at an opportune moment. Since its founding, the R.B. Annis School of Engineering has rapidly grown into a robust engineering school offering seven specialized areas of study in computer engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial & systems engineering, computer science, and general engineering. The larger facility, located at the corner of Shelby St. and National Ave., will accommodate these programs and address their space-related needs. 

R.B. Annis Hall also allows the school’s unique DesignSpine component to expand beyond its original footprint and meet growing demand.

DesignSpine encourages students to learn by doing as it gives them a deeper understanding of how things are made,” Reid said. “Students work with faculty and lab technicians to safely develop their own prototypes and finished products. R.B. Annis Hall allows them to think bigger as they apply their creative problem-solving skills.”

Reid said in addition to providing the necessary space for programs, R.B. Annis Hall will support the school as it continues to build an identity on campus and in the community. The larger space translates to more opportunities for creative and innovative designs from the Annis School’s student teams. Students will have more potential to establish exceptional working relationships in larger maker spaces, workshops, and labs. Faculty will have the opportunity to more effectively work with and mentor teams, as well as to collaborate with each other and other partners beyond campus.

“One aspect which I look most forward to is the creation of new space,” Reid added. “When student design teams meet with their industry customers, we’ll have a professional space in which to meet. The space itself will build a sense of community within students, and expand student opportunity.” 

The R.B. Annis School of Engineering ushered in a new Homecoming tradition in 2020 when faculty and students built two steel trebuchets for the Top Dog Challenge, a competition with Truman State University to see which institution could raise the most funds in support of local non-profit groups.

Reid hopes R.B. Annis Hall will pave the way for more innovative interdisciplinary projects which have been a hallmark of the Annis School. The recently launched Center for Collaborative Innovation, funded through an Elevate Nexus Higher Education Grant, will further promote the Annis School’s foundational framework. 

Reid envisions more real-world opportunities for students and faculty to collaborate and problem-solve, as they did for the Top Dog Challenge during Homecoming 2020. Given just three weeks to design and build two steel trebuchets weighing 600 pounds each, Reid was thrilled to see the Annis School rise to the challenge. 

“Seeing this school go all-in once we have a good idea, once we have a commitment, is an awesome thing to see. The real highlight has been watching our faculty work tirelessly for our students,” he said.  

In addition to providing our students with innovative, cutting-edge experiences, these developments ensure that UIndy continues to meet current and long-term accreditation requirements. They also play a critical role in helping us to accommodate the increasing enrollments in our programs.

President Robert L. Manuel

The Department of Art & Design, which celebrates its centennial anniversary in 2023, also is expanding. Supported by a $100,000 grant from the Allen Whitehill Clowes Foundation, Art & Design will undergo a significant facility upgrade and expansion that meets the department’s growing needs to accommodate more students and to continue to meet the accrediting standards set by the National Association for Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). 

The project includes the renovation of an existing building on campus and a reorganization of space within the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. The additional, repurposed building will include spaces for a sculpture studio (both wood and metal), ceramics, art therapy space, a new student gallery, studio classroom, two offices and storage space. Reorganization and updating of the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center will allow expansion of the printmaking studio, digital photography studio, animation/illustration digital studio and a studio classroom. 
The expansion will provide the additional space required to facilitate the department’s expanding programs and to grow the department’s interdisciplinary collaborations both inside and outside of the University. During the last five years, innovative programs have connected students with regional and national networks of artists and community organizations. Faculty-led projects such as the “River Fish” sculpture along the White River and a hanging sculpture for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s 2020 Beethoven Series have created hands-on learning experiences for students while further reinforcing the department’s reputation for artistic excellence.