Rendering of the future Autodesk Technology Engagement Center on California State University, Northridge’s campus, courtesy of AC Martin.
On Friday, I joined Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost, our CMO Dara Treseder, elected officials, and leaders from California State University, Northridge (CSUN), in touring the site of the future Autodesk Technology Engagement Center.
Our tour was an Autodesk-led extended reality (XR) experience that was part of a groundbreaking ceremony for a new 32,000 square foot facility on the CSUN campus, made possible by a recent $5 million gift from Autodesk. By wearing VR headsets, the virtual tour guided attendees through the architect’s Autodesk Revit models of the facility.
Andrew Anagnost (front) and CSUN President Erika Beck (right) participate in the event’s XR experience, image courtesy of CSUN.
Naturally, the center will support the academic programs of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. It will include state-of-the-art research labs for design and fabrication and promote interdisciplinary research collaboration.
But that’s just the beginning.
It will also house the Global HSI Equity Innovation Hub, with innovative programming that leverages technology to engage future students and their families in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics)discovery and exploration of college-to-career pathways. The Hub will also scale practices, working in collaboration with other CSU campuses and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) across the nation. These efforts aimto accelerate educational equity for underserved students at HSIs and ensure a more diverse and inclusive future workforce.
This video emulates the XR experience offered at the groundbreaking event, where participants explored the architect’s Revit models of the facility.
Just over half of CSUN’s students identify as Latinx and 70% are first-generation college students. As part of the Hub’s programming, there will be a success center in the facility to support students’ transition from college to careers in STEAM fields.
To promote STEAM education at all stages of learning, the center will also be open to the public. A makerspace will engage the entire campus and broader community, inspiring students and their families to use their creativity and learn new technologies through the act of making something.
One of my main motivations for attending the groundbreaking was to help represent Autodesk Tinkercad, which will be available to support the Hub’s STEAM discovery outreach programming. Learners from ages five to 95 will be able to experience our free, easy-to-use web app for 3D design, electronics, and coding.Many learners start their STEAM education journey with Tinkercad and are able to make a smooth transition to the tools used by professional designers and engineers, like Autodesk Fusion 360.
I also attended to support the community as the global lead for the Autodesk Latinx Network. We know that equitable access to STEAM education is essential, especially in light of a recent Pew Research Center analysis of federal government data, which shows that Hispanic workers make up just 8% of all workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Supporting the next generation of innovators at CSUN is one way Autodesk is playing a role in ensuring the future workforce represents the diverse world we live in.
Guillermo Melantoni (top row, center, wearing tan blazer), leaders from Autodesk and CSUN, and elected officials break ground on the Autodesk Technology Engagement Center on April 14, image courtesy of CSUN.
Speakers highlighted the impact of the new center
During the groundbreaking event, CSUN President Erika Beck spoke of the significance of the new facility.
“Featuring equity as a core design principle, the Autodesk Technology Engagement Center will be powered by cutting-edge technology to expand regional P-12 outreach in STEAM educational pathways and advance innovative design and research, including labs for engineering, prototype creation, pre-manufacture, and iterative design. Autodesk’s commitment to positive social change resonates deeply with CSUN’s mission. Their support is helping us create a more equitable and inclusive academic community that supports the success of our students.”
The occasion was particularly meaningful for Andrew Anagnost, who graduated from CSUN in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
He shared, “In the world of technology, it is common to celebrate the ‘lone’ genius or inventor, but most of us know intuitively that no one rises alone. That’s why Autodesk stands behind Cal State Northridge and its efforts to build a deeper connection to the communities outside the University. And because CSUN is one of the largest Hispanic-Serving Institutions in the country, those connections are critical.”
Andrew Anagnost with Senator Alex Padilla on stage at the groundbreaking ceremony, image courtesy of CSUN.
A slate of elected officials also celebrated the milestone, including US Senator Alex Padilla, Congressman Tony Cardenas, and Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, each of whom holds an engineering degree and is dedicated to expanding opportunities for STEAM careers to propel the future of our innovation economy. They were instrumental in ushering the facility from idea to groundbreaking, supporting CSUN’s request for a $25 million state allocation for the facility.
“As the first Latino to represent California in the U.S. Senate and one of the few Senators with an engineering degree, I know the importance of increasing diversity within the institutions that shape our society,” Senator Padilla shared in CSUN’s press release. “I was proud to help secure a million dollars in federal funding to help build the Global Hispanic Serving Institution Equity Innovation Hub at CSUN. By investing in highly educated, passionate, and diverse young leaders here at home, we can truly build our STEAM workforce of the future.”
The Autodesk Technology Engagement Center is expected to open in 2024, ushering in a new era of STEAM learning and opportunities for students at CSUN and other HSIs across the nation. When those doors open, I cannot wait for this space to welcome in the next generation of innovators at CSUN and inspire a community of learners of all ages.