Video: opening ceremony for the Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building

10/4/2021 Bill Bowman and Julia Park

The Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building (Lu MEB) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign officially opened on Friday, October 1.

Written by Bill Bowman and Julia Park

Sidney Lu
Sidney Lu

The Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building (Lu MEB) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign officially opened on Friday, October 1. The event was held in the facility’s new Student Center, at the corner of Green and Goodwin.

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen attended and gave remarks, along with UIUC Chancellor Robert Jones and Rashid Bashir, the Dean of The Grainger College of Engineering.

After the ceremony, students gave tours of the newly completed building.

Located at 1206 W. Green Street, Urbana, the building serves as home and headquarters for the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE). Simply named the Mechanical Engineering Building when it was built in 1950, the building was renamed in 2019 to honor Illinois alumnus Sidney Lu, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1981.

Mr. Lu contributed $21.5M to MechSE’s “Transform MEB” project, which included additions and renovations that transformed the building from approximately 66,000 square feet of 1950s-era space that included no student labs, to approximately 94,000 square feet of modern space complete with many instructional labs, makerspaces, community spaces, and active-learning classrooms. Total project cost was approximately $41M.

Since its earliest planning, the project was built on three pillars deemed vital by the MechSE Department:

  • Education: Classrooms throughout the transformed building enable an optimal learning environment—one designed to utilize MechSE faculty’s advanced teaching methods and hands-on, project-based instruction.
  • Innovation: A 6,000-square-foot Innovation Studio in the new east-wing addition flows into educational labs and a senior capstone design studio located in the existing lower level and a courtyard infill space. Put together, this innovation complex has been named “MechSE MakerWorks,” and it is designed to inspire creativity and foster teamwork.
  • Community: Social gathering/studying spots, from the expansive and to the secluded, are sprinkled around the entire facility, headlined by a new 3,000-square-foot, open-design student center full of tables, seating, and a Starbucks, creating a “home away from home” for MechSE students.

The building was vacant from the start of construction in 2019 until the start of the current semester. Faculty and staff have been moving back in steadily since August. Many of the lab spaces are in use for classes this semester, and the classrooms will begin holding classes in January.

About Sidney Lu
Mr. Lu is a Distinguished Alumnus (2011) of the MechSE Department and a Distinguished Alumnus (2015) of The Grainger College of Engineering.

Mr. Lu and his two brothers each left their home in Taiwan to attend the University of Illinois. Sidney took full advantage of the opportunity, earning 58 credit hours in his first year, almost twice as many as a typical freshman. That work ethic continued in his illustrious career as he gained extensive experience in the interconnect technology business.

“I’m grateful to Illinois,” he said. “I learned hard work here, and I learned how to learn.”

Mr. Lu’s path to Champaign-Urbana would not have happened without parental encouragement.

“The person I’m thankful to the most is my mother, who had the foresight to bring the kids here for a great education,” he said.

Mrs. Tungchao Julia Lu raised three proud Illinois graduates in Sidney and his brothers, Nicholas and Christopher. An ardent supporter of education, Mrs. Lu sent all three of her children abroad for higher education, and they all attended Illinois at roughly the same time. From 1979 to 1981, Mrs. Lu actually lived in Champaign herself, to visit her sons.

One of Mr. Lu’s most influential professors at Illinois was the late Professor Shao Lee Soo.

“Professor Soo taught me two thermodynamics classes,” Lu said. “He was the one that aroused my interest in mechanical and thermal engineering. To this day, I still recollect some of the equations he taught us in class.

“I can’t thank enough all the great teachers who touched my life. Thank you for opening my mind and letting me know the small way I could contribute to the continuing success of this great institution. Hopefully, we have planted the seed for learning, for innovation, and for collaboration.”

At Foxconn Technology Group, Mr. Lu truly worked his way up the company ladder, beginning as a design manager on connectors. Within 18 months, he was in charge of a development group of 60 engineers. A few years later, he took over a business unit that included manufacturing. By 2003, he was promoted to be in charge of the entire connector and cable operations. His roles have included a stint as corporate executive vice president of Foxconn and general manager for its Network Interconnection Group (NWinG). He currently serves as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Foxconn Interconnect Technology Limited and has been its Executive Director since December 30, 2013.

“When I first started, we were not even ranked in the top 50 of the connector industry,” Lu said. “I was lucky that I found the right company to join at a time when they were small. I joined Foxconn when it had $67 million in revenue; the company has over $150 billion now in revenue.”

Previously, Mr. Lu served as a Department General Manager and Vice President of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd. He worked at General Motors Company between 1981 and 1988 in their Packard Electric Division in Ohio, carrying out load flow and dynamic analyses for connectors. Furthermore, he was involved in manufacturing work at TE Connectivity Ltd. (previously known as AMP Incorporated), a company engaged in the connector manufacturing business, between 1988 and 1990. Mr. Lu joined Hon Hai in January 1990 and held a number of positions, including Manager, Deputy General Manager and General Manager, during his more than three decades of experience developing its interconnect technology business.

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This story was published October 4, 2021.