UC Berkeley’s Jacobs Hall, home for engineering design innovation, officially opens

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Jacobs Hall, a new campus building for design innovation in engineering, officially opened its doors at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon.

Located adjacent to Soda and Etcheverry halls, the building will house the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation, an interdisciplinary center that allows students, teachers and professionals to explore the relationship between design and technology.

Jacobs Hall has classroom space as well as studios and a materials store for purchasing project supplies. Sixteen courses will be offered in the building this fall, some of which were specifically created for Jacobs Hall, including a lower-division sequence introducing students to this interdisciplinary approach. The introductory courses will focus on design methodology, prototyping and visual communication.

The 24,000-square-foot building took about a year to construct and includes solar panels that will reduce its annual carbon emissions by 600 tons, according to UC Berkeley College of Engineering Dean Shankar Sastry.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to completely reinvent science and engineering education by infusing it with hands-on creativity and collaboration,” Sastry said at the event.

According to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, the building’s vision embodies the ideas of interdisciplinary research, undergraduate education and implementing the arts and design across campus.

Some students involved in engineering and design clubs volunteered to give tours of the facilities during the grand opening, while others were stationed throughout the hall to give demonstrations of their groups’ ongoing projects.

UC Berkeley sophomore Neeka Mashouf represented CalSol — the campus solar vehicle team — at the event and expressed excitement about the opportunity for her club to use spaces in Jacobs Hall.

“I joined CalSol to get that hands-on experience with engineering, and it’s cool that now there are more classes and facilities for students to be able to do that,” Mashouf said.

David Dornfeld, professor of mechanical engineering and faculty director at the Jacobs Institute, said students “had a big part in driving” the implementation of design-oriented curriculum.

“There’s such a pool of talent on campus of people who do design in different applications,” he said. “We’ve never had a place to bring it together so that the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Jacobs Hall was funded entirely by private philanthropy, including a $20 million gift from the Paul and Stacy Jacobs Foundation.

According to UC Berkeley alumnus Paul Jacobs, who also serves as executive chairman of Qualcomm Inc., the opening reflects a shift in curriculum at the College of Engineering toward experiential learning.

“Engineering is about this magical process where you take a thought and create reality out of it,” he said. “This building represents the idea of design innovation being a critical component of engineering.”

Contact Ariel Hayat at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ArielHayat.