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MSOE breaks ground on $34 million high-tech education hall

The Milwaukee School of Engineering broke ground on Monday on a $34 million building in the city’s downtown, starting work on what will eventually be a hub for the study of high-tech fields like artificial intelligence.

The 64,000-square-foot Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall, at the corner of Milwaukee and State streets, will have classrooms, laboratories and an auditorium geared toward the study of AI, cybersecurity, robotics and other cutting-edge disciplines. The building will also have space for companies that work with the university, and a state-of-the-art data unit housing a supercomputer.

“This building will not only be a transformational education facility that will enable MSOE to be a national leader in preparing students for the future, but it will also be a building that supports economic growth in our region,” said John Walz, president of MSOE.

The project is being paid for with a donation from Dwight and Dian Diercks, who are providing the largest-ever contribution from a graduate in the school’s 114-year history. Dwight Diercks earned a degree in computer science and engineering from MSOE in 199o and is now senior vice president at NVIDIA, a California-based technology firm that specializes in AI, supercomputing and visual computing. He also holds an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from the university.

Work on the new academic center is scheduled to begin this spring and is expected to wrap up by fall 2019. Mortenson Construction is the construction manager for the project and Uihlein/Wilson — Ramlow/Stein Architects is the developer.

Scott Ramlow, of Uihlein/Wilson — Ramlow/Stein, said the new building has collaboration space for students and high-tech classrooms.

“The building is strategically placed to be someplace that students cross daily anyway,” Ramlow said.

The building stands between dormitories and the MSOE engineering building, meaning hundreds of students will walk through the new Diercks hall every day.

“We’ve placed this building where they go anyway, to foster collisions, we like to say, between all the degrees and disciplines of the school,” Ramlow said.

At a ground-breaking ceremony on Monday, Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and other officials said the project will give the university a new means of teaching students about future technologies and bolstering the regional economy.

As more and Baby Boomers retire, the demand for skilled labor will only continue to rise, Walker said.

“We need more people with the skills and education to fill those positions,” Walker said. “Not those skills for today, or for next month, but for the next year and for the years to come. We’re just at the tail end of the baby boom generation being near to retirement, and so there’s going to be this even bigger burst of great opportunities.”

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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