A look inside the Student Innovation Center


Installation of the glass panels that will compose most of the Student Innovation Center's exterior walls will be done by March. White and purple material wrapping the lower portions of the building allow the interior to be heated while construction continues through the winter. Where the building is wrapped in white, glass will go. Metal panels will replace the purple areas. Photos by Amy Vinchattle.

It's more than a year from being finished, a busy hard-hat zone mostly bare on the inside as its glass exterior is pieced in place, but it still was exciting for the Student Innovation Center's new director to walk through the building that will be Iowa State's crown jewel for creating.

"To physically be here is really spectacular," said James Oliver, University Professor and Larry and Pam Pithan Professor of Mechanical Engineering, who as of Jan. 1 is the center's director.

Construction manager Leroy Brown and project manager Liz Clarke took Oliver and senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert on a tour of the center Jan. 9, showing off the progress made on the $84 million facility scheduled to open for the spring 2020 semester.

When completed, the Student Innovation Center will be the hands-on hub for students across campus, five floors (one below ground) full of places for making, designing, interacting and learning -- classrooms, student-organization spaces and co-working suites intermingled with fabrication labs, design studios and even a demonstration kitchen.

It'll be an unprecedented facility, said Oliver, who has been involved in steering committees planning the center's many uses. "There will be nothing else like it in the U.S., I think," he said.  

Construction is a bit behind but still expected to wrap up on schedule, Clarke said. Installation of the massive floor-to-ceiling windows that will account for most of the 140,000 square foot building's exterior walls should be done by March. When that work is finished, the crane that's loomed over the site for more than a year will be gone, too, Brown said.

Here's a look inside the center:


Late afternoon sunlight bathes the west side of the Student Innovation Center's third and fourth floors, which look down on a second-floor courtyard accessible to the public. The panels interpersed in the glass surrounding the courtyard are whiteboards for indoor meeting spaces.


The entry level floor will feature a large staircase with built-in seating, which construction manager Leroy Brown called a "step-a-torium."


Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert takes a photo in the northeast corner of the Student Innovation Center's fourth floor, where a multipurpose room is planned.


When the Student Innovation Center opens, a green roof of prairie grass will cover much of the third floor. For now, it's being used as a staging area for glass wall installation. Construction manager Leroy Brown (center) said keeping the panels there protects them against accidental damage.