December 13, 2017

Energy Initiative opens new innovation space in Gross Hall

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Gross Hall was originally designed to house Duke chemists and chemistry students, with labs aplenty and thick floors built to withstand mishaps. These days, the building facilitates a different kind of chemistry... as Gross Hall for Interdisciplinary Innovation.

Current tenants include dynamic units seeking to maximize Duke expertise in service of society, including the Duke University Energy Initiative, the Information Initiative at Duke (iiD), Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), and the West Campus offices of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative (I&E).

Now there's a new space in Gross Hall for productive collisions that advance the goals of Duke's strategic plan. Speaking to a crowd of hundreds at last month's Energy Mix, Energy Initiative director Brian Murray reintroduced Gross 100C as The Generator.

As recently as August, Gross 100C was a traditional laboratory classroom, equipped with high lab chairs, heavy tables, a wet lab, and scores of empty shelves and cabinets. 

The redesigned space is outfitted for interdisciplinary learning and team-based problem-solving, with wifi-based screencasting, modular video screens, and furniture that is easily rearranged. The renovation was funded by a grant from the Undergraduate Program Enhancement Fund administered by the Provost's Office.

"Gross Hall has become a key hub on campus for faculty groups who tackle the sort of complex, problem-centered research that demand interdisciplinary approaches," notes Ed Balleisen, Duke's vice provost for interdisciplinary studies. "The Generator has been custom-designed to facilitate that kind of inquiry."

In its first month, the space hosted the weekly meetings of Bass Connections in Energy & Environment teams, including students and faculty from the Law School, Nicholas School of the Environment, Pratt School of Engineering, Sanford School of Public Policy, and Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. The space has also hosted an Innovation & Entrepreneurship course, a training session for the Energy Risk Lab game developed by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, and a meeting of the Energy Initiative's Faculty Advisory Committee.

The Generator space is ideal for Bass Connections projects, Data+ teams, or collaboration-intensive courses, points out Kyle Bradbury, managing director of the Energy Data Analytics Lab (housed by the Energy Initiative in collaboration with SSRI and iiD). "The wireless projection technology lowers the barrier to having students share digital content and the flexibility in configuring the furniture allows for seamless transitions from small group collaboration to larger discussions and back again."

In addition to formal teams and courses, The Generator will be home to cocurricular events and informal activities. Any member of the campus community can schedule the room, but priority is given to courses, teams, and groups that relate to Duke's university-wide commitment to addressing energy and water challenges confronting the world.

Interested in reserving The Generator? Contact Robin Marley, EI administrative staff assistant at