Illinois Institute of Technology today opened a sparkling, new 70,000 square foot home for student-driven innovation and entrepreneurship. Unlike other university innovation centers (which are more about being a platform for start-ups), the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship takes a hands-on approach to problem solving with dynamic projects, collaborations and real outcomes and products. It is devoted to fostering collaboration among all of Illinois Tech’s students, faculty, alumni and business partners – and is designed to develop the home-grown and diverse technical talent needed in today’s business world.
“At Illinois Tech, we make it possible for our students to learn by inventing, creating and solving,” said Illinois Tech President Alan Cramb. “The Kaplan Institute will immediately become one of the nation’s most important platforms for active learning at the university level. It will also become the centerpiece of our mission to make a future in science and technology possible for talented young people here in Chicago and across the world.”
The Kaplan Institute is helmed by Chicago’s veteran entrepreneur and investor, Howard Tullman, who has been at the forefront of Chicago’s innovation boom, spending the last five years leading the city’s tech hub 1871 and decades before directing high-tech start-ups and helping major educational institutions reinvent themselves.
“The Kaplan Institute’s focus is to turn out highly qualified, instantly employable students for jobs that haven’t been invented yet, trained to use technologies that we are just now creating, in order to address problems that we do not yet know are going to be problems,” said Tullman, university professor and executive director of the Kaplan Institute. “In this building, the creative and imaginative ideas of the school’s students and faculty will become meaningful innovations for our city, region and beyond.”
The university’s first new academic building in nearly 40 years provides all Illinois Tech students with a variety of wide open collaboration spaces for project-based experiences, contains state-of-the art prototyping and fabrication facilities, and serves as the home for the university’s renowned Institute of Design. In addition, the Kaplan Institute breaks out of the classroom model to give students myriad ways to invent, create and discover through hands-on, team-based learning.
Located in the heart of Illinois Tech’s historic campus, the Kaplan Institute will draw students and faculty from all disciplines. Every undergraduate student on campus – regardless of field of study – will be connected to one another through interdisciplinary learning opportunities. Students are already in the process of tackling issues such as agriculture in an urban environment, applying robotics to vertical farming; using Big Data to improve first responder responsiveness; generating an interface that bridges the foreign language gap and improves trust and communication between families and Chicago Public Schools; and many others. As this work moves into the Kaplan Institute, project teams will be able to collaborate and connect, faculty will drop in to coach and mentor, and business collaborators will have a much larger presence and engagement in the students’ education.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Cramb and Provost Peter Kilpatrick, along with major business partners, university faculty, staff and students for this afternoon’s grand opening events celebrating the city’s newest innovation hub.
"Technology and entrepreneurship continue to be Chicago’s fastest growing industry sectors – we as a City recognize the value of supporting innovation and talent," Mayor Emanuel said. “The Kaplan Institute under Howard Tullman’s direction will expand, diversify and broaden one of the world’s largest tech talent pools right here in Chicago, and I am excited to see the impact these students and graduates will have on our City’s future."
The Kaplan Institute is established in large part from a gift of $11 million from Ed Kaplan – a 1965 Illinois Tech alumnus and longtime member of the University’s Board of Trustees – and his wife, Carol. Kaplan, a Chicagoan who studied mechanical engineering, co-founded Zebra Technologies, a global leader in bar code technology.
“Through the Kaplan Institute, Illinois Tech students, faculty and alumni will have all the resources they need to turn their concepts, ideas and problems into real solutions. Students now have the opportunity and ability to go beyond the norm of technical education and focus also on ingenuity and invention,” Kaplan said.
Other major donors to the Kaplan Institute include: S.R. and Kaye Cho; Martin Cooper (EE ’50, M.S. ’57) and Arlene Harris; The Crown Family; A. Steven and Nancy C. Crown; Lester and Renee S. Crown; Janet and Craig Duchossois/The Duchossois Family Foundation; Michael P. Galvin; The Grainger Foundation; Arthur W. Hill; Victor A. (CHE ’64) and Faye Morgenstern/Morgenstern Family Foundation; Walter (ME ’44) Nathan and Ann Nathan; Madhavan K. (M.S. IE ’68) and Teresa R. Nayar/Nayar Family Foundation; Robert C. Pew and Susan Taylor/Dornick Foundation; Edward (ME ’43) and Renee Ross/Renee & Edward Ross Foundation; Steelcase, Inc.; Tellabs Foundation; Ralph Wanger; Alan (ME ’71) and Suzanne Wendorf.
Notably, more than 50 percent of the individuals and organizations listed are not alumni of Illinois Tech, but have invested because of their commitment to the mission and future of the student success that will be developed through the Kaplan Institute.
The horizontal, expansive and light-filled building was designed by John Ronan Architects. (Photos and video can be found here.) Conceived as a hybrid of campus space and building, the design is organized around two open-air courtyards through which visitors enter the building, and which serve as collision nodes for chance meetings and information exchange across departments. The design of the Kaplan Institute is also forward-thinking in its approach to sustainability. The second floor of the building, which cantilevers over the ground floor to provide sun shading, is enclosed in a dynamic façade of glossy white ETFE foil cushions which can vary the amount of solar energy entering the building through sophisticated pneumatics. The ETFE foil is 1 percent the weight of glass and gives the building a light, cloud-like appearance. The building has also received LEED gold certification.