Boeing pledges $10M for new UW engineering building that will house AI Education Institute

Rendering of the UW’s Interdisciplinary Engineering Building by KieranTimberlake.

The University of Washington is breaking ground next month on its Interdisciplinary Engineering Building. The new facility should help the UW’s College of Engineering better serve its growing enrollment: since 2009, the annual number undergraduates earning degrees from the college has doubled to 1,300 while the square footage of student facilities has not kept pace.

“This building is going to help us prepare more engineers. It creates a future of opportunity. It’s a pipeline of local talent,” said Nancy Allbritton, dean of the College of Engineering, in an interview.

The $90 million building is being funded in part with a $10 million donation from Boeing. The aeronautics giant with Seattle roots made its first gift to the UW in 1917, the year after Boeing launched. That original $6,000 check from founder Bill Boeing helped the UW pay for the construction of a wind tunnel.

The new gift, the company said, is likewise an investment in the future.

The work and research that will be done in the new facility, “we see as nearly as significant to our second century as the wind tunnel was to our first century,” said Bill McSherry, Boeing’s vice president of state and local government operations.

Boeing has hired nearly 1,200 UW engineering grads in the last five years, and about 6,500 UW alumni in total work for the company.

Rendering of the UW’s Interdisciplinary Engineering Building by KieranTimberlake.

“It’s a just a natural fit for us to be lead partners in this new facility,” McSherry told GeekWire.

Other funding for the project includes $50 million from the state of Washington. The remaining $30 million that’s needed will come from philanthropic giving and UW funds, Allbritton said.

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The new space will total 70,000-square-feet across five stories and serve multiple purposes.

It will house the AI Education Institute, which will help the college revamp its curriculum across disciplines to make AI and machine learning a fundamental element of the programs.

It will provide engineering education support for all 10 departments within the college, which includes the William E. Boeing Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics, as well as mechanical, chemical and electrical engineering and other areas.

Its uses could include student advising, tutoring, job fairs, work on capstone projects done in partnership with outside organizations and rooms for collaborative projects. The building will be centrally located on campus, just east of the Husky Union Building (HUB).

The space “will be like a one-stop shop for our engineering students,” Allbritton said.

The UW’s College of Engineering is spread across 30 buildings. More recent notable additions include The Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering, which opened in 2019, and the Nanoengineering and Science building that opened in 2017.

The Interdisciplinary Engineering Building’s architect is KieranTimberlake and the contractor is Hensel Phelps. It should be completed by mid-2024.

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