It’s a simple idea: Education and opportunity can change the world. The new Autodesk Technology Engagement Center at California State University, Northridge will be a place where students learn, create and innovate by making things.
“Making is a front door to inspiring young people to do more with technology and pursue a technical education,” said Andrew Anagnost ’87 (Engineering), president and CEO of Autodesk Inc., the software company whose support is honored through the facility’s name. “Because when they make something, their curiosity and interest are ignited. That’s what the Autodesk Technology Engagement Center is all about: igniting the curiosity and interest of the next generation of innovators.”
CSUN broke ceremonial ground on the Autodesk Technology Engagement Center on April 14, officially launching a center of innovation and exploration for students from preschool through college. The facility will accommodate academic programs in the university’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, equity-focused STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programming, and Global Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Equity Innovation Hub programming.
Designed by architecture firm AC Martin, the facility will include state-of-the-art research, design and digital capture, and fabrication labs, as well as a maker space for the campus and wider community. There will be space for peer-led student support services, and the center will enable students’ progression to graduation and help them transition to careers in STEAM and in the creative and tech economies.
The center, scheduled to open in fall 2024, will be located next to Jacaranda Hall.
Examples of the student creativity that Autodesk and state, federal and university officials are trying to nurture were on display at the groundbreaking, including a Formula SAE single-seat, open wheeled race car; an autonomous airplane designed to fight wildfires; and a concrete canoe.
The event was a chance to celebrate the project and those who have championed it. Autodesk Inc., a leader in design and make software, has provided over $7 million in total support. The company was one of the first to invest in what was originally called the “Center of Possibilities” by university officials.
“By leveraging their vast resources, expertise and belief in the power of technology as a force for positive social change, Autodesk is addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges,” said CSUN President Erika D. Beck. “CSUN is incredibly fortunate for Autodesk’s partnership and their investment in the future of our academic community, providing access to STEAM educational opportunities and inspiring the next generation of creators, innovators and change-makers.”
With Autodesk’s support, a feasibility study set the course for the facility. A $25 million state allocation from California Gov. Gavin Newsom was made possible with support from U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, Congressman Tony Cárdenas and Assemblywoman Luz Rivas — who all delivered heartfelt and inspiring remarks at the groundbreaking event. Padilla also helped secure $1 million in federal funding.
The expanded public-private partnership resulted in the realization of a hub that will bring the community, and preschool through college partners, together to facilitate new educational pathways.
With significant support from Apple Inc. as part of its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, CSUN is the host campus for the new Global HSI Equity Innovation Hub program, launching initiatives in the region, statewide through the California State University system, and nationally.
“The Autodesk Technology Engagement Center is a physical manifestation of the mission of the CSU,” said Jolene Koester, interim chancellor of California State University and president emerita of CSUN. “It’s going to advance knowledge, it’s going to provide authentic access to excellent education and educational opportunities, and, ultimately, it contributes to preparing a diverse workforce for the tech and creative industries to fuel the economies of the state of California and spill over to the nation.”
The facility will be — in the words of Associated Students President Shayan Moshtael that were echoed by speakers throughout the ceremony — “epic.”
Climate change, alternative energy, cybersecurity and many more issues can be addressed through innovation, Padilla said.
“I have no doubt this Autodesk Technology Engagement Center, and hub overall, will produce the future scientists, the future innovators, and the future leaders who will create a better world for all of us,” Padilla said.
Anagnost spoke of the gaps in opportunity and mentorship that can lead to careers in innovation. He talked emotionally about personal struggles in high school that nearly kept him out of college, and how CSUN gave him the opportunity to realize his full potential. Investing in institutions like CSUN can help close these gaps, he said.
“That’s why centers like this are so important,” Anagnost said. “They create access. They build bridges. They create opportunity.”
They help create the future and change the world, indeed.