The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay opened its new STEM Innovation Center to the public last week to showcase $1.5 million of new equipment for its engineering students.

In February 2018, UW-Green Bay received approval from the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to create a new school of engineering and a degree in mechanical engineering.

To offer the degree, numerous hurdles had to be passed. Mechanical engineering assistant professor Jagadeep Thota said a list of equipment and costs had to be included in the proposal to the regents, and last Thursday was the culmination of a multiyear planning process.

The center has more than 100 pieces of laboratory equipment filling four labs and a machine shop. The equipment was installed in December and January, and it took several weeks to get it up and running.

With an equipped engineering school nearby, high school graduates in northeast Wisconsin will not have to leave the region to get an engineering degree.

Thota expressed hope this engineering program and center will help northeast Wisconsin retain talent and combat brain drain.

“Most of these students … are going to other universities for learning engineering, and from there, sometimes they’re going out of state. They’re not coming back,” Thota said.

John Katers, dean of the engineering school, believes the new center is already attracting students to UW-Green Bay. Faculty estimated 55 students would enroll in the mechanical engineering program. Instead, 100 students enrolled.

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