student center rendering

The most visible signature space in the new home for Texas ASE/EM will be a grand entrance student center – made possible by a generous $1 million gift from Thomas (B.S. ASE 1970) and Mimi McKnight.

After 50 years occupying the W.R. Woolrich Laboratories building (WRW) at the corner of 24th Street and Speedway, aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics in the Cockrell School of Engineering will move to a larger, newly renovated home on The University of Texas at Austin campus in late 2018.

The department’s new home — currently called North Office Building A — will be refurbished to feature new research, teaching and collaboration spaces that foster a hands-on, experiential learning education to meet the needs of today’s industries. The move was recently announced by UT Austin Provost Maurie McInnis as part of the university’s space allocation study, with a goal of prioritizing academic facilities on the Forty Acres and providing long-term cost savings to campus.

Originally built in 1958, WRW was introduced one year after Sputnik made history as the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth and marking the dawn of the space age. Since then, both Texas ASE/EM and the aerospace industry have experienced tremendous growth and evolution, making the move to a newer, more modern facility that much more exciting. The university is currently planning for the demolition of WRW in 2019 to make way for construction of the Cockrell School’s new Energy Engineering Building, a facility initially approved in 2016 by the UT System Board of Regents.

Texas ASE/EM, which boasts top-10-ranked programs for both undergraduate and graduate education (U.S. News and World Report), has more than doubled its enrollment over the past 10 years, and the number of student organizations has more than tripled. Over the past five years, one third of the department’s faculty has been recruited for their expertise in new, cutting-edge research areas, and the department also launched a new computational engineering undergraduate degree — the first of its kind in the U.S. — designed to provide versatility to graduates and enable them to work in a wide variety of fields.

student center rendering

The new student center will include a collaborative study space, a quiet zone, a computing center and a conference room set against a sleek aerospace-themed backdrop.

With this advancement comes the need for a facility that will reflect the department’s growth and forward-thinking educational approach.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for Texas ASE/EM — construction and renovation of department buildings is typically undertaken only once in a generation,” said Noel Clemens, chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. “For 50 years, WRW has been the home for our outstanding department, but it’s time for a new home that reflects our vision for the future. This updated facility will foster a more collaborative and interdisciplinary learning and research environment for our faculty and students, and it will, without a doubt, make us a better department.”

map highlighting NOA building location

The newly renovated 86,000-gross-square-foot building is located at 101 E. 27th Street — across the street from the Cockrell School’s Chemical and Petroleum Engineering building and Engineering Executive Education building. It will boast a student-centered learning area at the main entrance, new and expanded research laboratories, student design labs and collaborative learning spaces. It is also equipped to handle future growth.

The most visible signature space will be at the main entrance, where students and visitors will be greeted with a glass seating area and large study space against a sleek aerospace-themed backdrop. The student center, established in recognition of a generous $1 million gift from alumnus Thomas McKnight and his wife Mimi, will include a collaborative learning area, a computing center, an undergraduate student conference room and a quiet zone.

Additional features in the new space will include expanded student project labs where students will work on hands-on projects such as unmanned aerial vehicles, rockets and satellites; modern research labs, including a new human-centered robotics laboratory; an expanded autonomous UAV lab; and a new space object visualization laboratory.

“I look forward to continuing to develop a world-class research program in space situational awareness and space traffic management in our new home,” said Moriba Jah, associate professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics. “The facility will allow my group to establish a state-of-the-art visualization laboratory — the Space Object Situation Room — that will allow users to better understand the relationship between objects in space in a way that supports decision-making processes. It’s a very exciting time for our research program, our students and the department.”

Renovations to the department’s new home are expected to be completed in November 2018. Future naming opportunities for additional spaces in the new facility will be available soon. Contact Bliss Angerman at for more details on how to support this new home.

Inside the Building

new ASE/EM building facade
  • A student-centered grand entrance area, made possible by a generous $1 million gift from Thomas (B.S. ASE 1970) and Mimi McKnight, including a glass seating area, collaborative study space, a quiet zone, a computing center, and a conference room
  • Updated instructional laboratories, including a new, modern wind tunnel for teaching aerodynamics
  • Expanded student design labs including the Air Systems Design Lab and Texas Spacecraft Lab
  • 50 percent more research lab space (combined with new EERC lab space)
  • State-of-the-art space object visualization lab
  • Expanded autonomous UAV lab
  • Expanded human-centered robotics lab
  • Teamwork and collaboration zones for graduate students and faculty

Note: All visual concept renderings are subject to change.