After multiple delays and high anticipation, the multi-million dollar Gerald Hatch Centre for Engineering Experiential Learning is almost complete. With the referendum by the faculty’s students years ago to raise money for the new space, it only grew in function and scope as interest and funding increased for this central hub of student-focused experiential learning initiatives.
The building is separated with each floor serving a particular function. The basement and penthouse serve as a separately funded space on sustainable energy.
Despite dedicated sections, Dr. Ishwar Puri, Dean of Engineering, mentioned the importance of sustainability throughout the building and the priority towards it.
“It’s not only a building that was designed with sustainability in mind, but it was also designed as a living laboratory because there will be panels and other readouts that will be accessible to students so that they will actually be able to see how sustainability works in a technical sense.”
The first floor, known as the build floor, will be primarily focused on workshops and a large build space for clubs and teams to work on large format projects in addition to housing the David Wilkinson Lounge and the relocation of The Drain, a store run by the McMaster Engineering Society.
The second floor, known as the meet floor, will feature the offices for the MES, clubs and teams in addition to meeting rooms and an open social space called The Junction.
The third floor, known as the support floor, will feature academic counseling, Engineering Co-op and Career Services and a collaborative learning room.
“It’s a recognition that no one discipline will solve the problems of the world. The world creates issues, problems and requires solutions. Engineers, by themselves, are not going to solve all of the world’s problems. They will need to work with others.”
Dr. Ishwar Puri
Dean of Engineering
Despite these functions that would be more commonly associated with engineering students, one of the things that Puri hopes is achieved with the new space is increased integration between the faculty and other disciplines around campus.
“When we build these spaces, we expect them to be collision spaces. It’s an extension of our philosophy — how we built a collision space outside of the John Hodgins Engineering Building, the lobby of the engineering building. You don’t have to have an engineering student ID to be there.”
These collision spaces have the benefit of allowing additional faculties to use the area in a way that benefits both non-engineering students and engineering students.
“It’s a recognition that no one discipline will solve the problems of the world. The world creates issues, problems and requires solutions. Engineers, by themselves, are not going to solve all of the world’s problems. They will need to work with others,” said Puri.
One of the other indirect benefits of the building was the student feedback on the project. With the previously mentioned referendum and funds put by students towards the building, they continue to have a large deal of influence when it comes to the building’s function and design.
Puri considers them to be equal stakeholders. This student feedback and influence allowed them to work through a large-scale project, have the ability to receive the benefits and make difficult choices along the way, which is an experience that cannot be understated.
“Not all of the faculties’ suggestions were incorporated into the final design, and not all of the students’ because you have a wish list, but once you have a wish list, then you have to prioritize. … It’s very easy to put in. It’s very painful to take out,” said Puri.
He also mentioned that he reminds all of his staff workers and faculty members that it is all about the students. Their feedback, experience and learning are always the top priority for the faculty and will continue to be a top priority.
One of the issues that has come with this, however, is the demand for space in the building.
“We now realize that, because there is such a strong culture for experiential learning and just the example of the building encouraged others to form clubs, teams and extracurricular experiential learning opportunities, the number of requests the MES is getting for occupancy far exceeds the capacity of the building. What we need is another Hatch centre.”
Moving forward, these priorities on sustainability, collision spaces and students will continue to be important for Puri and the rest of the faculty. The hope is that the centre will be fully completed by the time students arrive in September.