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Engineering the future in a new UC San Diego hub

A new building officially opens on the campus of UC San Diego Friday. It houses all kinds of engineers who are designing products that have never been seen.

Franklin Antonio Hall is named after the late Qualcomm co-founder, who donated $30 million toward the $180 million total cost of the project.
“We’re bursting at the seams,” said Albert Pisano, who was a good friend of Antonio's. Pisano is also the dean of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, which has reached a record enrollment of almost 10,000 students.

Until now, the school has had classrooms and laboratories spread across several buildings on campus.

Antonio Hall has four floors, with more than 186,000 square feet of space.

Henrik Christensen is the director of robotics at the school. He teaches and mentors mechanical and electrical engineering students and graduate students working on degrees in computer science.

“Now I get to have them all in the same space, which makes a big difference for them to talk to each other. It allows them to really understand how can they complement each other in building products we’ve never seen before,” he said.

Those products include devices using artificial intelligence and the development of powerful, longer-lasting batteries for electric cars.

Although the move-in and setup for experiments and research will continue for many more weeks, there are already projects underway.

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Courtesy of UC San Diego
Franklin Antonio Hall has a butterfly shape and was designed to blend into the environment on the UC San Diego campus in La Jolla. The 186,000-square-foot building, shown in this undated photo, is a hub for the Jacobs School of Engineering.

Alex Chow is working on his master's degree in computer science. He is a member of a graduate student team developing a robot to support children with special needs.

Last week, as his team members worked in the new building in La Jolla, Chow was a hundred miles away at home in Riverside directing the robot.

“So, with this robot, you can turn around in your environment. Grab stuff with the arm and the gripper,” Chow said, speaking through an electronic tablet attached to the top of the robot.

This would benefit a student with disabilities who could remain home and still be part of a class meeting.

“If they’re unable to physically attend school, then they may be able to use the robot to actually actively participate in school as a robot,” said Pratyusha Ghosh, a member of Chow’s team working on her Ph.D. dissertation.

The learning curve and collaborative vibe at Antonio Hall are just getting started

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M.G. Perez / KPBS
Albert Pisano, dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, stands on the main spiral staircase of Franklin Antonio Hall in La Jolla. The staircase represents a thread of DNA, Sept. 14, 2022.

In his position as dean, Pisano has put out the welcome mat and an invitation to much younger students who hope to make engineering their career.

“The world is filled with issues that need to be addressed now. A workable solution now is better than a perfect solution later,” he said.

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