Cal State LA receives Keck Foundation grant for Innovation and Design Center

January 24, 2019

By Margie Low | Cal State LA News Service

Cal State LA has been awarded a grant to establish an Innovation and Design Center that will foster a learning community focused on design and manufacturing.

With a $325,000 grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation, the center will provide project-based learning for more than 1,000 undergraduate students annually in the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology (ECST).

“This grant from the Keck Foundation will enable the college to develop collaborative, experiential learning opportunities for our students, the next generation of technical professionals who will lead, serve and transform the greater Los Angeles area,” said ECST Dean Emily Allen.

Cal State LA is committed to engagement, service, and the public good and is ranked number one in the nation for the upward mobility of its students.

The goal of the three-year grant project is to prepare students for success in STEM fields.  

The Innovation and Design Center will provide students with training workshops on the design process, computer-aided drafting software, advanced manufacturing techniques, and microcontroller programming.

The center will also offer space and resources for club meetings, team projects, research, and collaboration with industries through capstone senior design projects. The design and fabrication space is located in the Engineering and Technology building, room B111.

“The Innovation and Design Center will help students develop their confidence, knowledge and skills in manufacturing, design and innovation,” said Chris Bachman, the grant’s principal investigator and assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Cal State LA. “Most importantly, the hands-on learning will motivate and inspire our students to be passionate about becoming engineers and technologists.”

An Alhambra resident, Bachman teaches and conducts research in the areas of design and building, specifically focused on wind energy, biomechanics, fuel cells, and batteries. He will lead a multidisciplinary team of Cal State LA faculty in integrating project-based learning into their curriculum and research.  

The team includes Jane Dong, associate dean of the college; Jai Hong, associate professor of technology; Ted Nye, director of the Capstone Senior Design Program; Michael Thorburn, associate director of the Capstone Senior Design Program; Nancy Warter-Perez, chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department; and KiMi Wilson, assistant professor of education in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction.

With support from Cal State LA faculty, some students will be able to create a gyroscope or gearbox for a rotating design class project, while others will design and fabricate entries for intercollegiate engineering competitions. The center will enhance courses and projects by incorporating hands-on learning experiences.

“The ECST Innovation and Design Center will empower our diverse engineering students to become innovative professionals, by providing them with an environment in which to design, build, test and improve their ideas,” Allen noted.

Photo: Cal State LA students create a gyroscope for a rotating design project in the ECST design and fabrication space. (Credit: Cal State LA.)

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Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation's grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering and undergraduate education. The Foundation also maintains a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth. For more information, please visit

California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit