cwru's think[box] breaks ground on new $30m innovation center

With fireworks, smoke machines and science experiments galore, Case Western Reserve University officials broke ground this week on the new home for think[box], an innovation center that will move to former Lincoln Storage Building, now known as the Richey-Mixon Building.
CWRU's board of trustees voted unanimously last Sunday, October 12th to approve the renovations, having raised $25 million of the $30 million goal. Phase I is due to be completed in August 2015.
Phase I will include renovations to the first four floors. A glass skyway will connect the athletic center to the new think[box] entrance. The first floor will be a community space with a bike station that will offer everything from bike parking to small bike repairs to a shower facility.

“It will be a younger-feeling creative space that suits our students’ lifestyles,” explains think[box] manager Ian Charnas, a Case grad who also leads the Tesla Orchestra. "The second floor will be the ideation floor with amenities such as whiteboards and meeting rooms modeled after Stanford d. School in California.”
Floors three and four are dedicated to some real hands-on innovation. The third floor will house a prototyping space and small metal shop that will offer tools for nearly every project conceivable. “We’re sending an email out, saying 'come enjoy several thousand square feet to do your projects and get messy.'”
Charnas expects think[box], which will be one of the top university-based innovation centers in the world, to attract innovative thinkers to Cleveland. “This is helping to build industry in the region,” he says. “Most of our students are recruited from outside of Cleveland, and even Ohio. This is a big golden carrot to keep these folks in the area.”

Think[box] is a unique facility not only because it offers high-tech equipment like 3D printers, but because it is free and open to the public. In many universities, you have to be a student to gain access to specialized equipment. Since its founding, think[box] has helped many entrepreneurs to create prototypes for their products.
The announcement was made during Case’s homecoming celebration. Case president Barbara Snyder was accompanied by the major donors to make the announcement amid smoke machines and fireworks displays on monitors. Instead of a ribbon-cutting, the group flipped a giant old-fashioned power switch.
Students wearing white think[box] lab coats and blue hard hats made commemorative chocolate coins using liquid nitrogen with the help of Sweet Designs Chocolatier and Piccadilly Creamery. A laminar flow fountain – the kind where the liquid leaps about – dispensed punch that shot from a white display case into guests’ glasses.
Charnas says they hope to raise the remaining funds in the next year and shoot straight into Phase II renovations, which will include the remaining top three floors.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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