GVSU names facility for Shape Corp. to celebrate longtime commitment to engineering students

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Valley State University celebrated Shape Corp.’s lead gift and its longstanding commitment to engineering students by naming its Innovation Design Center for the tier-one automotive supplier.

The recent gift from Shape Corp. will establish a significant endowment for the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing to promote innovation and meet the greatest needs for Grand Valley’s engineering students. This gift is the latest in Shape’s decades of support for the university.

The naming ceremony for the Shape Corp. Innovation Design Center, 227 Winter Ave. NW, was held on August 9.

Grand Valley purchased the Winter Avenue building in 2017 to expand its engineering program. Paul Plotkowski, dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, said Shape Corp., headquartered in Grand Haven, has been one of the college’s earliest industry partners, sponsoring senior projects and hosting students for co-op opportunities.

“Shape makes our approach to engineering education possible and unique because we are able to offer an impactful level of hands-on learning, project-based learning and experiential learning,” Plotkowski said.

The naming event capped Grand Valley’s Engineering Design Conference Week, which highlighted senior projects and celebrated industry partners. President Philomena V. Mantella said it was an honor to recognize Shape and the Verplank family for their support. Mantella said the unique partnership between Shape Corp. and GVSU engineering has set the standard for experiential learning.

“Industry partners like Shape truly set Grand Valley engineering and computing students up for success from day one,” Mantella said. “Their support has helped the university build a unique learning journey for students who then take their confidence and skills to the workforce and fill the critical need for STEM-educated employees.”

Shape Corp. executive chairs Tony and Kyle Verplank said their gift and longstanding commitment to the Padnos College of Engineering reinforces their belief in further developing the next generation of engineers to excel in technical innovation and applying that energy to solve complex problems in the global industry.

Tony Verplank said: “These students will be the next engineers who can thrive and support our West Michigan business community’s passion for innovation. This endowment represents the next chapter in a long history of collaboration between GVSU and Shape Corp.”

Kyle Verplank said: “GVSU and Shape Corp. have grown up alongside one another right here in West Michigan. For many years we have collaborated and partnered with both students and faculty. The caliber of talent and the experiential programming that empowers students to excel both in the classroom and the workplace has made GVSU an integral part of Shape’s growth and success over the years. We are excited to see this dynamic partnership evolve and adapt with the changing needs of our business. Strengthening our collaboration with this amazing talent pool in West Michigan will continue to be a competitive advantage for Shape in the years ahead.”

Support from Shape Corp. allows for more industry-sponsored projects in the facility. The building has rapid prototyping labs, digital design studios, a fabrication lab and dedicated space for K-12 engagement like FIRST Robotics. Learn more about the facility online. Highlights of the Shape Corp. Innovation Design Center are listed below. 

  • DTE – EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility Center) Pre-compliance Development & Testing Center
  • Local support, training for 3D CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and 3D printing
  • Power Mobility Lab
  • Support DOER (Design, Optimization, Evaluation and Redesign) Center, faculty-led projects
  • Corporate use of outreach center

At the event, area high school students who competed in FIRST Robotics demonstrated their entries and GVSU seniors discussed their engineering projects.

About Shape: Shape Corp. is a global leader in multi-material automotive impact energy management systems and lightweight body structures utilizing advanced high-strength steel roll forming, tight-tolerance aluminum extrusions and large-tonnage injection molding. Founded in 1974, the company employs more than 3,500 team members with 17 facilities worldwide, allowing Shape to serve customers in North America, Europe and Asia. For more information visit Shapecorp.com

About GVSU: Grand Valley State University attracts nearly 23,000 students with high-quality programs and state-of-the-art facilities. Grand Valley is a comprehensive university serving students from across Michigan and dozens of other states and foreign countries. Grand Valley offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in 300+ areas of study from campuses in Allendale, Grand Rapids, and Holland, and from regional centers in Battle Creek, Detroit, Muskegon, and Traverse City. The university is dedicated to individual student achievement, going beyond the traditional classroom experience, with research opportunities and business partnerships.