Introducing the Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building at Illinois

5/16/2019 Bill Bowman

Written by Bill Bowman

Mr. Sidney Lu (BSME '81)
Mr. Sidney Lu (BSME '81)

The Mechanical Engineering Building (MEB) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been renamed the Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building, after receiving approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees today.

Located at 1206 W. Green Street, Urbana, the building serves as home and headquarters for the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE). The building renaming honors Illinois alumnus Sidney Lu, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1981.

Mr. Lu has contributed $21.5M to MechSE’s “Transform MEB” project, which includes additions and renovations that will transform the building from approximately 66,000 square feet of 1950s-era space that includes 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 is estimated at $41M, with a target completion date of August 2021. Construction work began May 6.

“It is impossible to overstate the importance of Mr. Sidney Lu’s impact on the Transform MEB project,” said MechSE Professor and Department Head Tony Jacobi. “The generosity he has shown to ensure an incredible facility for education and innovation has taken the project from a dream to a reality. He truly wants MechSE students to have an unrivaled experience during their years at Illinois.

“We are beyond excited to be renaming MEB as the Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building. The impact of his gifts will benefit MechSE students for many generations to come.”

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

  • Education: Classrooms throughout the transformed building will 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 makerspace in the new east-wing addition will flow into educational labs and a senior capstone design studio located in the existing lower level and a courtyard infill space, creating an innovation complex designed to inspire creativity and foster teamwork.
  • Community: Social gathering/studying spots will be sprinkled around the entire facility, headlined by a new 3,000-square-foot, open-design student center full of tables, seating, and a coffee shop, creating a “home away from home” for MechSE students.
A rendering of the completed Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building.
A rendering of the completed Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building.

In 2014, Mr. Lu was informed of the Transform MEB project and immediately became its biggest champion. He pledged $12M to fund the 25,000-sqft east wing addition, stating a desire to invest in MechSE students’ education and innovation. This addition took on the name Sidney Lu Center for Learning and Innovation.

“Mr. Lu has made subsequent gifts, expanding his incredible impact beyond the addition and ensuring all facets of the projects could be completed,” said Professor Rashid Bashir, Dean of The Grainger College of Engineering. “His ongoing generosity inspired us to name the entire building for this great alumnus and friend.”

Mr. Lu’s total support of the Transform MEB project now stands at $21.5 million.

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.

About the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE)
With more than 60 tenured and tenure-track faculty members, including many renowned experts in their individual disciplines, the MechSE Department is consistently ranked among top undergraduate and graduate programs in the United States. It has been home to several internationally prominent research centers, including the International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (I2CNER), the Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS) Center, and the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Center (ACRC).

MechSE offers a rigorous engineering curriculum with hands-on activities, learning-by-doing projects, and team-based problem-solving—essential complements to classroom instruction. The Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building will provide the technology and tools to support these activities.

Since its opening in 1950, the Mechanical Engineering Building at Illinois has been the primary home for the MechSE Department. More than 20,000 students have become engineers there.

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This story was published May 16, 2019.