Faculty, students and honored guests gathered this week to celebrate the official groundbreaking of the new $11 million Gerald Hatch Centre for Engineering Experiential Learning.

McMaster Engineering undergraduate students contributed $2 million and helped design the three-story, 28,000-square-foot building, which will be a hub for several engineering teams, clubs, societies, student support services and collaborative workspace. Construction is expected to be complete by early 2017.

The building’s namesake, Gerald G. Hatch, the late founder and first president of the global engineering consultancy Hatch, donated $2 million toward the project. As well, several Hatch employees contributed funds with the company matching donations, totaling more than $1 million. Gennum Corp. co-founder Doug and June Barber contributed $1.5 million and former Chairman and CEO of the Timberland Group of Cos. Walter G. Booth donated $1 million.

“We are pleased to break ground on a very significant milestone for the students of McMaster Engineering,” said Ishwar Puri, McMaster’s dean of engineering. “The vision for the Hatch Center unites a sustainable building with enriched programming. Both have been designed to enhance the experiential learning of our students and to inspire them to become engaged citizen scholars who will transform the world.”

A long-standing supporter of McMaster and higher education, Hatch will be receiving the top philanthropy award for 2015 from the Association of Fundraising Professionals in part for its commitment to the Hatch Center and engineering student scholarships.

“For nearly 30 years, Hatch has been proud to support McMaster University and the School of Engineering, which provides students with exceptional learning opportunities and practical engineering experience,” said Kurt Strobele, chairman at Hatch. “The new Hatch Center represents our continuing commitment to McMaster and its students, as they realize their potential to engineer for a better world.”

Equipped with meeting rooms, large building spaces and shared workspaces, the Hatch Center has been designed as a hub for the faculty’s 5,000 undergraduate engineering students to collaborate on projects and share ideas to foster experiential learning and support work being done in the classroom.