More than a great IDEA

- February 22, 2011

T H E   D A L H O U S I E   D I F F E R E N C E

Atrium of the idea building
Artist's rendering of the IDEA building.

In Canada, innovation drives the economy. And new technologies, fresh ideas and design-based work are resources that will keep us at the cusp of innovation. We will come to rely on a different type of leader–one with diverse skills, knowledge and talents–for our future prosperity.

That is the catalyst for broad sweeping changes within Dalhousie’s Faculties of Engineering and Architecture & Planning.  There are curriculum changes underway and plans for shared facilities and joint projects.

At the heart of these changes is a stronger affinity to design – which is at the very core of innovation. By using design as a problem-solving technique students gain a broader perspective and begin to understand that there may be a number of possible solutions. 

“Engineers used to be taught that there was only one answer. Now we encourage our students to think more big picture,” says Josh Leon, Dean, Faculty of Engineering. “It’s new ideas that translate into ingenuity.”

A new facility will, by its very design, bring together related Faculties, not just various engineering disciplines. Coined the IDEA (Innovation and Design in Engineering an Architecture) Building, it will define the future of engineering, architecture and planning at Dalhousie.  It will be a contemporary space to learn the art of design.

“When students from different disciplines share the same workshops and design labs, a cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives happen naturally, says Christine Macy, Dean, Architecture and Planning. “This means a richer education experience. Students will graduate job-ready and go on to become more competent, more capable professionals. “

When completed, the IDEA Building will boast enhanced technology, flexible work stations, student work rooms, design labs, common areas, an auditorium and a place to showcase student projects and achievements. It will also have a strong presence in Halifax’s vibrant downtown.

Engineering students are looking forward to improvements the IDEA building can offer.

Third-year engineering student Shannon Labute says space is a huge issue on Sexton campus and last term she took a second-year engineering course located in a medical school building. It wasn’t ideal because the desks had wheels on them, there were big screens everywhere and it difficult to hear and see the professor. A new building with more space for engineering students would be “perfect,” she says.

“It will be nice to have the new building, with new laboratories and classrooms,” says Ms. Labute, 24. “That’s going to be pretty amazing.”

Wei Sang, a fifth-year chemical engineering student, likes the concept for the new building and is disappointed that he’ll graduate before it’s built. Amin Al-Hasseini, also a fifth-year chemical engineering student, agrees. There are limited computers and study spaces right now, and a new building would “definitely be a nice improvement.”

idea building
A drawing of the IDEA building on Sexton campus.

This article is part of the Dalhousie Difference series, introducing and showcasing some of the 50 innovative projects in development. The first story, "The Dalhousie Difference," explored what the power of philanthropy means to a university like Dalhousie. "Imagining where they can be" unveilled the new TD Black Student Opportunity Grants. And "All in a Day's work" introduced the new scholarship fund created in the name of Sir Graham Day.


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