The Wond’ry humming with cross-campus courses and projects
Vanderbilt’s much-anticipated innovation center, the Wond’ry at the Innovation Pavilion, designed to be the hub of innovation and entrepreneurship on campus, opened at the start of the fall semester. The center, which furthers Vanderbilt’s signature culture of cross-campus collaboration, is already buzzing with student and faculty projects.
“Students from all across campus are tremendously interested in using the center for innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Robert Grajewski, the center’s Evans Family Executive Director. “Our calendar is already booking up with makerspace workshops, symposia and collaborations.”
The Wond’ry at the Innovation Pavilion, which is adjacent to the new Engineering and Science Building, will play a central role in Immersion Vanderbilt, the university initiative for all undergraduates to engage, question and forge change through a mentored multiyear, immersive experience.
A prime example is the first course to be held in the center New Product Design and Development, a collaborative project between the School of Engineering and the Owen Graduate School of Management. “The course isn’t new, but this is the first time it is being taught in an environment that is the focus of the course itself,” said David Owens, P.E., professor of the practice in both management and innovation at Owen and engineering management in the School of Engineering. He also holds an appointment in the School of Medicine.
In the course, teams of engineering undergraduates and MBA students work side by side to solve real-world problems presented by Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and other companies. The teams develop and prototype solutions and then deliver them at a product fair at the semester’s end.
“Being located between the engineering school and the Medical Center allows us to literally move from discussing ideas in the classroom to making observations on site. Then we can head back to the Wond’ry’s shop to do prototypes,” Owens said. “This kind of hands-on learning, testing and synthesis is key to teaching a topic that, despite being an engineering science, still has so much art to it.”
In November, the student organization VandyHacks will host its third, and largest yet, annual hackathon in the center. The hackathon will bring together hundreds of students from universities across the country to build apps and design software and hardware while building relationships with their peers and being mentored by tech industry leaders.
Also planned for the center are entrepreneurship breakfasts and roundtables, startup accelerators and training programs for undergraduates and graduate students on using the makerspace.
“With our three key programs now in their launch phase innovation garage, entrepreneur pre-flight, and social ventures there is a tremendous amount of buzz and energy around the Wond’ry,” Grajewski said. “It’s an exhilarating time.” The School of Engineering invites alumni, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, faculty, staff and other mentors to be a part of the Wond’ry’s network. Go to vu.edu/wondry to explore the site and join the mailing list.