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Gifts help fund new aeronautics and astronautics laboratory

Major gifts from several individuals, including corporation member Arthur Gelb (PhD 1961) and his wife Linda, will help create the new Laboratory for Complex Systems in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, scheduled for completion next spring.

Dr. Gelb and his wife have donated just over $2 million toward construction and scholarships for the new laboratory. Their $1.3 million gift for the lab's infrastructure will create the Systems Implementation Workshop and an Instrumentation Lab in the new learning laboratory.

Earlier contributions from Dr. and Mrs. Gelb with a market value of $750,000 will establish the Arthur Gelb (1961) Fellowships for graduate students and the Arthur Gelb (1961) Scholarships for undergraduates.

"The Gelbs are long-time friends of MIT and have contributed to Institute life in many ways," said Dean of Engineering Thomas L. Magnanti. "We are delighted and honored to have received these generous gifts, which will help us to create a laboratory that encourages practice-oriented engineering in its most modern form&emdash;a major emerging focus of the School of Engineering."

Family and friends of Gerhard Neumann, the widely known expert in aviation and former General Electric executive, have donated $1 million in his memory to establish a fund to underwrite equipment for the new laboratory, including equipment to furnish the machine shop, wood shop, electronics shop and vehicle operations area. Mr. Neumann had no formal affiliation with the Institute, but was a guest lecturer several times during his long career in the aviation industry.

"Gerhard Neumann was a great believer in engineers rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty," said Professor Ed Crawley, head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. "The new laboratory is an investment in our commitment to his philosophy of learning by doing and building. In the new laboratory, students will build knowledge by creating systems."

In addition, an anonymous $3.5 million gift to the laboratory honoring Professor Emeritus Robert C. Seamans Jr., who is noted for his work in the development of guidance and control systems for ships, missiles and space vehicles, was announced earlier this year (MIT Tech Talk, March 3).

"The Lab for Complex Systems and the implementation of a new curriculum and pedagogy represent an exciting experiment in the reformation of undergraduate engineering education at MIT," said Professor Crawley. "We are deeply honored that these donors are providing critical support for the experiment."

The new lab, which is currently under construction, is expected to be completed in the spring of 2000. Plans call for developing and renovating 38,000 square feet of space, including revitalizing Building 33 and the Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel and building a high-bay hangar shop space for assembling large projects.

Learning spaces will be linked to reinforce the multidisciplinary nature of engineering, and electronically connected to the outside world to allow distance collaboration. The design also calls for spaces that will encourage informal interaction among students.

The lab will be equipped with a state-of-the-art digital design center and workshops that will let students implement the analog, digital, metal, composite and software components of their projects. A new network and vehicle operations area will make it possible for students to manage simulated and real aerospace systems.

Arthur Gelb, a member of the Corporation since 1995 and chair of the Aeronautics and Astronautics Visiting Committee, was co-founder of TASC (The Analytic Services Corp.), a high-technology professional and technical services firm in Reading, MA, which he sold in 1991. He is also founder and president of Four Sigma Corp. in Woburn, a stock trading company utilizing analytical techniques previously developed for other fields, and author of two books.

Linda Gelb was an assistant engineering librarian in MIT's Barker Engineering Library from 1987-90. She has been active with severalphilanthropies, including Beth Israel Hospital, and recently established an ESL (English as a second language) program for immigrants in the Lexington area.

The German-born Gerhard Neumann, who served in the US Army during World War II and received US citizenship by a special act ofCongress, went on to become a leading innovator in the field of jet aircraft engines as well as one of General Electric's top executives. Jet engines featuring his inventions and engineering advances still power military and commercial aircraft around the world today. Among the many awards Mr. Neumann received during his lifetime are the Wright Brothers' Memorial Award and the French Legion of Honor. He died in 1997 at the age of 80.

A version of this article appeared in the June 2, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 32).

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