National Instruments Co-Founder Contributes $10 million to the Engineering Education and Research Center

January 07, 2013

James Truchard, co-founder, president and CEO of National Instruments Corp., has contributed $10 million to the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin to help develop the Engineering Education and Research Center (EERC) which will house a new student-focused teaching lab.

Truchard’s personal gift will help support the National Instruments Student Project Center, which will be a centerpiece of the future EERC, a 430,000-square-foot building for interdisciplinary teaching, research and hands-on student projects. Truchard’s gift is the largest single gift made to the Cockrell School for the EERC to date.

The National Instruments Student Project Center will provide undergraduate students with 23,000 square feet of new space in which to design and build everything from solar cars to satellites and robots to biomedical sensors.

“I have been to universities all over the world, and it became very apparent to me that UT lacked a central location where engineering students can innovate and collaborate — a place where they can learn by doing,” said Truchard, a longtime supporter of programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and hands-on, project-based learning. “We need that place of critical mass and energy where all the disciplines can come together.”

The Cockrell School has outgrown its teaching and research facilities, and that has become a challenge for the engineering school as it seeks to recruit the best students and faculty members.

“The EERC is a place where faculty and engineering students will create technologies of the future, and we are thrilled that Dr. Truchard shares our vision,” said Gregory L. Fenves, dean of the Cockrell School. “The EERC will provide students and faculty with needed space for interdisciplinary research and hands-on projects.”

The total project cost for the EERC is $310 million. The Cockrell School has received a $105 million commitment from the university’s Board of Regents for the center. Additionally, the school is raising $105 million in philanthropic support. The remaining amount is expected to come from university and state funding.

Project-based learning is one of the best preparations for entering the engineering workforce. However, because of the state of some of the Cockrell School’s buildings, the majority of students only participate in one project during their senior year. The Cockrell School’s vision is to have every student involved in a project every year.

“We are so grateful to Dr. Truchard for this tremendous gift, which will help us achieve our objective of building the EERC, which is critical to achieving our goal of becoming a top five engineering school. We find it fitting that Dr. Truchard, an innovator in his field and graduate of our school, is helping to create this center of education and innovation,” Fenves said.

Truchard holds a doctorate in electrical engineering, as well as a master’s degree and bachelor’s degree in physics, all from The University of Texas at Austin. He co-founded National Instruments in 1976 while working at the university as managing director of the acoustical measurements division at Applied Research Laboratories.

Under Truchard’s leadership, National Instruments pioneered the development of virtual instrumentation software and hardware that revolutionizes the way engineers design and develop test and measurement applications.

He is a member and former chairman of the Engineering Advisory Board of the Cockrell School of Engineering, works closely with the university as a member of the UT System’s Chancellor's Council, and is a former member of the university's Electrical and Computer Engineering Visiting Committee. He is a founding member of the Austin Software Council and was a member of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's Advisory Council on the Digital Economy.

National Instruments, which is based in Austin, has offices worldwide with more than 6,100 employees.