The new Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center was funded by a $30 million gift from the co-founder of NVIDIA, the Santa Clara graphics processor company. Large areas are set aside for casual student meetings and brainstorming and the new building is designed for collaboration.
Ph.D. students like Nick West write complex equations on a clear wall board that help to predict why jet engines stall. It's there for others to review.
"It's informal collaboration and that really helps spark either competition or collaboration," he said.
Huang received his master's degree at Stanford 18 years ago.
"The next person that changes the world is likely already in this building somewhere," he said.
The new facility was designed by engineers for engineers, so it sets an example by using half the power and one-tenth the water of a standard building. Even its library is two-thirds smaller than the old one because so much material can be read now electronically.
The center also boasts a branch of Ike's Place, the popular San Francisco sandwich shop, and the lines are long here too.
Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang, also a Stanford grad, and his wife, funded a separate engineering building a few years ago, creating an engineering quadrangle.
Compared to his generation, Yang believes today's engineering grads face even greater challenges.
"They may have to find ways in which they are solving bigger and more complex issues earlier," he said.
According to Stanford President John Hennessy, interdisciplinary collaboration means that today's engineers will be prepared for first, second and third careers instead of first, second and third jobs.