Turning Ideas Into Innovation - New Lyles Lab enhances collaboration among civil engineering students

Author: written by Becky Brown
Turning Ideas Into Innovation
Thanks to the generosity of a multi-generational Purdue family, students in the School of Civil Engineering will be among the University’s first to experience the integration of the traditional classroom experience with hands-on learning and computer simulation.

The new Lyles Ideas to Innovation (i2i) Learning Laboratory uses concepts developed in the School of Engineering Education to enhance innovation and collaboration among students and instructors. When it opens for instruction, it will be the first teaching lab at Purdue to link lectures, experimentation and computational systems — enabling students to take a project from idea to completion.

“Our existing lab hadn’t been renovated since it was built in the 1960s, and our instructors found it challenging to update their curriculum without current technology,” says M. Katherine Banks, the Bowen Engineering Head and Jack and Kay Hockema Professor of Civil Engineering. “The new lab is part of a transformation in how we educate our students.”

Banks decided to follow the School of Engineering Education’s lead by modeling the new lab after the learning laboratory in Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, where first-year engineering students become immersed in the engineering design cycle. Like that environment, the Lyles i2i Learning Lab is designed to be flexible. The space can be divided into specialized work areas and features small, portable testing equipment and a number of work stations where students can conduct simulations.

Because the lab is used by every student in the civil engineering program, Banks and her team made its construction their top fund-raising priority and were thrilled when Purdue alumni Bill Lyles, Gerald Lyles and Marybeth Lyles Higuera stepped up as the project’s lead donors with a $750,000 gift from the Lyles Foundation.

The Lyles’ connection to Purdue dates back four generations. Bill, Gerald and Marybeth’s grandfather attended the University at the turn of the 20th century and eventually taught courses in mechanical engineering. Their father received a civil engineering degree from Purdue in 1935, as did Bill and Gerald in 1955 and 1964, respectively, and Bill’s son in 1981. Marybeth received a degree in speech-language pathology in 1959. More than a dozen other family members are also graduates.

“Our family has strong roots at Purdue, and we’ve been longtime financial supporters. This gift is one more way we can pay back the University for all it has given our family,” Gerald Lyles says.

Though designed specifically for civil engineering students, the Lyles i2i Learning Lab will be available for use by other disciplines, as well as by K-12 students during the summer months. Plus, Banks believes it will help attract younger people to Purdue and the civil engineering field.

Connected to the Lyles i2i Learning Lab will be a renovated hydraulics laboratory, as well as a first-of-its-kind outdoor infrastructure garden, which will help students understand how materials react in a real-world environment. The laboratory will be dedicated in spring 2011.