The University of Maryland (UMD) has opened the $67 million E.A. Fernandez IDEA (Innovate, Design, and Engineer for America) Factory to foster technology innovations and advances with a new 60,000-square-foot building for its A. James Clark School of Engineering.
The IDEA Factory aims to advance collaboration across engineering, the arts, business, and science, and is the only university facility funded entirely by private philanthropy.
“The IDEA Factory is a spectacular addition to UMD’s robust and growing innovation ecosystem,” UMD President Darryll J. Pines said in a press release. “Its world-class facilities for education, innovation, research, and product development in robotics, quantum, engineering, transportation, and manufacturing will be transformative.”
“Our community will conceive ideas, create designs, build prototypes, develop business plans, and bring to market products that will spur economic prosperity in the region, state, and nation,” Pines added.
The IDEA Factory’s first floor, called ALEx Garage, is dedicated to student competition teams such as Terrapin Rockets and Robotics@Maryland, “as well as a rapid prototyping lab equipped with 3D printers and other in-demand gear,” the release said.
Lockheed Martin gave $2.5 million to equip the center’s new Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center on the fourth and fifth floors, where faculty and students will “conduct research on rotorcraft aerodynamics, structures, and flight mechanics. It also boasts a monorail hoist, a giant, yellow crane-like device that can haul heavy equipment up from the ground,” according to the release.
The third floor, known as the Robotics and Autonomy Laboratory, is dedicated to advancing robotics systems. Students can work with a mobile robot called Spot from Boston Dynamics and an unmanned ground vehicle called Husky from Clearpath Robotics.
The Quantum Technology Center is below grade level with a 3.5-foot-thick concrete floor to “isolate delicate experiments from environmental interference.” The center is shared between the Clark School of Engineering and Department of Physics, where students and researchers will focus on translating quantum physics into real-world technologies.
Finally, the IDEA Factory will also have a first-floor home for the Startup Shell – the student business incubator founded in 2012 – where students can collaborate and network to scale up their startups.
“Engineering brings together great minds – people with different backgrounds and perspectives, looking at the same challenge in different ways – to collaborate on solutions that serve humanity. The IDEA Factory will catalyze those collaborations,” said Clark School of Engineering Dean Samuel Graham, Jr. “When the world looks for solutions, it comes to Maryland Engineering. We are incredibly appreciative of our supporters for giving our students, faculty, and staff a new place to do cutting-edge work.”