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University of Maryland, state, and local leaders gathered with donors and supporters yesterday to celebrate the groundbreaking of the E.A. Fernandez IDEA (Innovate, Design and Engineer for America) Factory. The latest addition to UMD’s innovation ecosystem, the IDEA Factory will incorporate open design to enable collaboration between diverse areas of engineering, business, and science. Experts in robotics, quantum technology, rotorcraft, and transportation will work alongside entrepreneurial students, faculty, and partners to inspire creative thinking, new products, and research breakthroughs.

“The road from idea to invention is filled with bumps, and this new building will pave the way for our innovators,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “We will build it solely with funds from private donors. They are demonstrating the power of philanthropy to transform our research and education.”

“We have to combine our engineering specialties so that our knowledge evolves into products and services that help humanity,” said Emilio Fernandez ('69, electrical engineering), an entrepreneur and inventor whose vision for a space that “allows the mind to expand” inspired the IDEA Factory’s open, collaborative design.

The IDEA Factory will bring together students, faculty, and staff from various majors and fields to conceive ideas, create designs, build prototypes, develop business plans, and bring products to the market to spur economic development in the region, state, and nation.

“The IDEA Factory will be like no other building on campus,” said Darryll J. Pines, dean and Farvardin Professor of the A. James Clark School of Engineering. “It is a truly unique space where student design teams, faculty researchers, venture creators, and industry experts will work side-by-side to meet the challenges of the 21st century by creating disruptive engineering breakthroughs.”

The 60,000-square-foot facility will be connected to the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building. With five floors, the IDEA Factory will include open workspaces for students, dedicated areas for student competition teams, and a new home for UMD’s student-run incubator, Startup Shell.

It will house the Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center, Robotics Realization Laboratory, Quantum Technology Center, and Maryland Transportation Institute.

The $50 million project is fully made possible by private philanthropy supporting Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland, UMD’s $1.5 billion fundraising campaign, and is expected to open in 2021.



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November 14, 2018


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