Rendering of the new Advanced Engineering Studies Building, courtesy of PGAL+SMITHGROUP JJR

Jul. 1, 2019

$70 Million Project to be Built in Phases; Fundraising Efforts Continue

In the last decade, the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering has become one of the fastest growing colleges at UNLV. With a growing population of students entering STEM fields, the College’s need for a state-of-the-art facility has become critical.

The College is happy to report that during the 80th session of the Nevada Legislature, Senate Bill 528 was approved, allocating $20 million to start construction on the Advanced Engineering Studies Building. (Planning funds were previously provided during the 2017 Legislature.)

Currently, the College of Engineering shares space with 9 different buildings on campus, serving 2,700 undergraduate and nearly 300 graduate students, 60 percent of whom continue to work in Nevada. Engineering schools of comparable size have three times UNLV’s facility infrastructure. Lack of space for research and training have made it difficult to meet the needs of undergraduates, graduates, and faculty.

A case in point is the UNLV Robotics Team who ranked eighth in the Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge against competitors including MIT and Lockheed Martin. The team ran into difficulties finding a place to conduct their research on campus and in 2015 began operating in a refurbished warehouse next to a 99 Cents Only store on Flamingo Road.

“The College has experienced extensive growth over the past 10 years, and the building we currently occupy is 34 years old," said Dean Rama Venkat. "We have simply run out of classroom, laboratory, and office space. The unwanted results could be capping the number of students admitted to engineering, fewer research and grant dollars awarded to the College, an increase in the skills-gap in the local workforce, and even jeopardizing UNLV's Top Tier status.”

In the last decade, the number of computer science students has more than tripled from 300 to 1,000. This year, UNLV was given R1 “very high research activity” distinction by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The College contributes 20 percent of all university research funding, proving instrumental in retaining UNLV’s R1 status. In March 2019, three engineering graduate programs were ranked among the best in the nation according to the U.S. News & World Report. The College’s notable contributions don’t end there, enrollment is up 62 percent, 42 percent of students are first generation students, and funded research has increased over 150 percent.

With the Advanced Engineering Building in the works, the College hopes the added space will foster cutting edge research, increase research revenue and productivity, and begin a new era of collaboration with industry and community partners. The three story building will focus on modular, adaptable spaces, including an auditorium, hands-on makerspace, research labs for cybersecurity, and a UAV testing facility.

Early supporters of the project include Buck and Aurora Wong, JT4, AGEM/GLI, Southwest Gas, and the Zalcman Family. Currently this private funding, combined with the state's and UNLV's financial commitment, meet approximately half of the required budget to complete the project. It is anticipated that construction will begin as efforts to secure the additional funding needed continues. With this plan in action, UNLV – and Nevada – can compete in the global economy.

To find out about naming opportunities or to maka a donation to the Advanced Engineering Building fund, please contact Jack Aylor, Director of Development, at 702-895-2913 or jack.aylor@unlv.edu.

This article was written by UNLV alumni Jocelyn Silva