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Allen School celebrates dedication of the new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering

Photo credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington

Yesterday, nearly 300 friends of the Paul G. Allen School gathered to celebrate the dedication of the new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering on the UW Seattle campus. UW and Allen School leadership were joined onstage by special guests Bill Gates, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, and Microsoft President & Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith in thanking the more than 500 individual donors, local technology companies, and state taxpayers for their support of the project.

The day marked not only the opening of a new building, but also the prospect of a new era of computer science education and impact. “The Gates Center isn’t just a building, it’s a statement about our vision of the future,” said Allen School Director Hank Levy. “We have created a world-class computer science program here, in part because of our focus on technology that helps to solve the world’s biggest challenges. This building enables us to grow those efforts and tackle even bigger challenges.”

One of the ways in which the new building will enable the school to grow its impact is by providing the physical capacity to serve more students. “It’s first and foremost a vehicle for increasing opportunity for Washington’s students,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “Because that’s what we do here, in this outstanding building and all across our campuses. It’s what drives the talented faculty who teach our students and advance discovery. It’s why so many students are eager to come here to learn — both to the University and to this program.”

Mark Stone/University of Washington

Cauce highlighted the care and thought that went into the design of the building, which is focused on increasing student capacity and enriching the student experience. The building’s entire first floor is dedicated to the needs of Allen School majors, including a student services center, an undergraduate commons, meeting and collaboration spaces, computer labs and support, and capstone project rooms. The Gates Center also provides much-needed instructional space, in the form of several large classrooms and seminar rooms along with a 240-seat auditorium, and numerous collaboration and community spaces — including a cafe open to the campus and the public, and a 3,000-square-foot events center for hosting workshops, research demos, career fairs, and other community-oriented events.

Emphasizing that even more important than the new building is what goes on inside, Brad Smith — who led the fundraising campaign for the building — saluted the assembled guests who helped make the vision of the Bill & Melinda Gates Center a reality. “It is extraordinary to just look across this room and see the faces of all of the people who contributed so much,” Smith said. “You didn’t hang up when the phone rang. We rolled up our sleeves together. More than 500 people donated their personal funds to this building.” Among them, he noted, were the Friends of Bill & Melinda Gates, a group of more than a dozen couples, led by Charles and Lisa Simonyi, who joined Microsoft in providing a gift to name the building in the Gateses’ honor.

Smith also acknowledged local companies such as Amazon and Zillow that joined Microsoft in supporting the project. “It was a wonderful journey that gave many of us an opportunity to partner together — even competitors,” he noted. “Other companies in Seattle really stepped up.”

Governor Jay Inslee. Photo credit: Matt Hagen

In addition to enabling the Allen School to serve more students, those efforts will also help the school and the UW to stay at the forefront of the computing field. Laboratories in the Gates Center include a wet lab to support the school’s work at the intersection of information technology and molecular engineering; the UW Reality Lab, which focuses on advancing the state of the art in augmented and virtual reality education and research; the Center for Neurotechnology, which aims to use technology to revolutionize the treatment of debilitating neurological conditions; and a 3,000-square-foot robotics laboratory.

Governor Jay Inslee — a proud Husky — noted that the impact of the new building and its inhabitants would extend far beyond their core focus. “This is so much beyond the world of computing,” Inslee said, “because the world of computing feeds every single thing that we’re growing our economy and our society on now.”

Of the 500 donors Smith mentioned, roughly 300 are Allen School alumni. That means nearly 200 people without an alumni connection to the school recognized the potential impact and threw their support behind the project. “From the bottom of my heart, thanks to all of you for what you’ve done to make this amazing building a reality,” said Allen School professor Ed Lazowska.

Bill Gates, Brad Smith, Jay Inslee, Ana Mari Cauce, Ed Lazowska, Hank Levy. Matt Hagen

Before the program began, Lazowska and Levy had taken Bill Gates, Cauce and Smith on a tour of the new building, visiting several labs and stopping to talk with students along the way. “It was fantastic to take the tour and not only see that it’s an incredible building, but to see some of the great work going on here,” Gates said to the assembled crowd later. Saying that he and Melinda are honored to have a building named after them that will increase the capacity of the school associated with Paul G. Allen, Gates also paid tribute to his late friend and collaborator who passed away last October.

“It would’ve been great if Paul could have been here,” he said. “He deserves so much credit for what happened at Microsoft and always believing in innovation and believing in the University of Washington. So hopefully he somewhere can appreciate the great development that is taking place here.”

Read the UW News release here, GeekWire articles on the building opening here and the dedication here, and a related Seattle Times editorial here.

View more photos of the day’s events below.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Center provides the Paul G. Allen School with sufficient space to double annual degree production. Mark Stone/University of Washington

Bill Gates stops by the new wet lab for a selfie with members of the Molecular Information Systems Laboratory. Matt Hagen

Bill Gates checks out the interactive wall highlighting the impact of computing on the Seattle region and the world with Ed Lazowska and Hank Levy. Matt Hagen

Ana Mari Cauce, Brad Smith and Bill Gates are treated to a demonstration of a new machine learning system based on canine perception. Matt Hagen

Bill Gates visits the new Microsoft Cafe on the first floor of the Bill & Melinda Gates Center. Matt Hagen
Allen School undergraduate students are ready to welcome guests and give tours of the Bill & Melinda Gates Center. Matt Hagen
UW President Ana Mari Cauce stresses the impact of the Bill & Melinda Gates Center in terms of expanding opportunities for Washington’s students. Matt Hagen
One of many light-hearted moments onstage at the dedication of the Bill & Melinda Gates Center. Matt Hagen
Michael Bragg, Dean of the UW College of Engineering, joins Ana Mari Cauce in a surprise tribute to Ed Lazowska and Hank Levy. Matt Hagen
A poignant moment in the program came when Bill Gates remembered his friend and Microsoft co-founder, the late Paul G. Allen. Matt Hagen
Lisa and Charles Simonyi, who co-led the effort to name the building for the Gateses, check out the Undergraduate Commons named in their honor. Lisa Simonyi
After the dedication, guests were invited to explore the building. Here, a future CSE major meets one of the Allen School’s many robots. Matt Hagen
March 1, 2019

Explore the new Bill & Melinda Gates Center at the Allen School’s March 1st open house!

On Friday, March 1st, the Paul G. Allen School will open the doors of the new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering to the community. Friends, alumni, and campus and regional partners are invited to join us for an afternoon of building tours, demos, and interactive media that will showcase how the Bill & Melinda Gates Center will enable us to educate more of Washington’s students for high-impact careers, advance scientific discovery and innovation, and make meaningful contributions to society — here at home, and around the globe.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Center Open House will take place from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. During that time, the Allen School is opening up access to the entire building and inviting visitors to explore the variety of community spaces, instructional facilities, research labs, and people-centric features of this exciting new facility. Both organized tours and self-guided tours will be available. Among the highlights:

Atrium & Tribute Wall

The expansive three-story Gates Center atrium provides an inviting welcome for students and visitors and functions as the building’s “living room.” One of the main features of interest to visitors is our Tribute Wall, an interactive media display developed by the firm Belle & Wissell and situated outside of the new Silverberg Family Student Services Center that enables visitors to explore the history of the Allen School, the growth of technology in the Puget Sound region, the many contributions of Paul G. Allen and of Bill and Melinda Gates, and the importance of broadening participation in the field.

Just off the main entrance, visitors can enjoy the view of Stevens Way and the Allen Center from the Microsoft Cafe, or climb the open-air Sujal & Meera Patel Innovation Stairway that connects the atrium with the second and third floors.

Instructional Spaces

As the signature education space in the Gates Center, the 240-seat Amazon Auditorium on the ground floor will host large classes, special lectures, and other events open to the campus community. The adjoining Amazon Gallery is a gathering space for students that also connects the auditorium with nearby instructional spaces such as the 100-seat Brad & Kathy Smith and David & Cathy Habib Classrooms.

The ground floor can be reached via the Anita Borg Grand Stairway, which features views of a revitalized Snohomish Lane and is named for computer engineer Anita Borg, a former UW student and tireless advocate for diversity in computing (including co-founding the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing). Seminar rooms and capstone project rooms are located throughout the building.

Community Spaces

The Gates Center is designed to foster a sense of belonging and community, and to support the serendipitous meetings and collaborations that are at the heart of Allen School innovation.

Areas of the building that epitomize these values include the Charles & Lisa Simonyi Undergraduate Commons, a space occupying the east end of the first floor that is set aside especially for Allen School majors and features seating areas, meeting rooms, computer support, and a kitchen; and the Research Commons, a bright, two-story space for faculty, staff, graduate students and guests to congregate and share ideas. Smaller breakout spaces, meeting rooms, and collaboration spaces are to be found throughout the building.

Event Center

Occupying the entire fourth floor of the building, the event center comprises three distinctive spaces offering sweeping views of the UW campus, Lake Washington, and Mount Rainier.

The signature event space is the Zillow Commons, a flexible venue for workshops, conferences and community-focused events. From the Zillow Commons, visitors can take in the view from the Wilma Bradley Terrace, featuring an outdoor seating area, or admire an installation by sculptor and UW alumnus George Rodriguez (MFA, ‘09) in the Steve & Heather Singh Event Gallery.

Research Labs

In addition to its many student-focused and community spaces, the Bill & Melinda Gates Center is home to a number of laboratory spaces that support Allen School research, including the Center for Neurotechnology, which develops innovative devices for individuals with debilitating neurological conditions; the Center for Game Science, pioneering games for scientific discovery and for education; the UW Reality Lab, a leading center for advancing the state of the art in virtual and augmented reality; the Molecular Information Systems Lab, which explores the intersection of information technology and biology; the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology, which develops, translates and deploys open source universally accessible technologies with a focus on benefiting populations with motor limitations or speech impairment; and a 3,000-square-foot Robotics Laboratory complete with a functioning kitchen to support the development of robots that assist humans with everyday tasks.

Hundreds of Allen School alumni and friends, the local technology community, the University, and the State of Washington came together to support the Bill & Melinda Gates Center, in a campaign led by Microsoft President Brad Smith. And, while Bill and Melinda Gates supported the project generously, the building was named in their honor as a gesture of admiration and gratitude by Microsoft and 13 couples who are long-time friends of the Gateses – exemplifying the wonderful community in which we live.

Join us in celebrating this incredible milestone and what it means for our program, our campus, our region, and the world!

Photo credits: Raphael Gaultier/University of Washington

February 16, 2019

Thanks to the trades who are making the Gates Center a reality!

On a typical day nearly 150 tradesmen and tradeswomen are at work on the Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering. Every day we marvel their amazing work, and periodically we demonstrate it with a bbq lunch and special recognition for some folks who have gone above and beyond in contributing to the great culture of the team.

Today’s event was particularly special: the first event held in the atrium of the Gates Center.

Thank you Mortenson and all your subs and their people – you’re the best! And thank you LMN for an incredible design.










August 30, 2018

“Topping out” celebration for new Bill & Melinda Gates Center heralds next phase of Allen School expansion and impact

Shot of the Bill & Melinda Gates Center with final beam in place at nightNearly 300 members of the Allen School’s extended community gathered earlier this month to celebrate two exciting milestones for the new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering currently under construction across the street from the Paul G. Allen Center: the “topping out” of the steel structure, and the conclusion of fundraising for the project thanks to a $15 million gift from Bill and Melinda Gates. With this step completed, the Allen School is now able to shift the focus of its fundraising efforts from building bricks and mortar to building support for the students and faculty who will use the center as a springboard for creativity, innovation, and global impact.

The topping out was marked by the ceremonial hoisting of the final steel beam, which faculty, staff, and supporters were invited to sign throughout the day. After adding their own signatures to the beam, the Gateses joined fellow special guests UW President Ana Mari Cauce and Microsoft President Brad Smith onstage.

Melinda and Bill Gates sign the beamMelinda Gates recounted for the audience the couple’s surprise and delight when, in the midst of discussing making a building gift of their own, they discovered that more than two dozen of their longtime friends and colleagues had banded together with Microsoft to provide a naming gift in their honor.

“That was a really, really special day for us, and we really appreciated that,” she said. “We couldn’t be more proud to have our names on the building.

“Sometimes, when you agree to a gift, you have to push people in a certain direction,” she continued. “This is a case where because of the work that Ed Lazowska has done and Hank Levy to make sure there are multiple and many pathways for young women and minorities into computer science, we don’t have to do anything except be along for the ride.”

Bill Gates recalled the early days of Microsoft, back when the company numbered 15 employees, and how his hopes for the company and for UW were intertwined.

Hank Levy in hardhat“We had big ambitions, so we were hoping that the university would grow along with us — that its size and its ranking would make it the best in the world,” he said. “And in fact, that’s exactly what’s happened.

“It was a good computer science department; it’s now a great computer science department,” he continued. “If there’s ever been a clear win-win for this region, for Microsoft, for the companies here, and for the students, it’s got to be investing in great computer science. So thank you very much.”

At Allen School Director Hank Levy’s signal — “Okay, Mortenson, beam us up!” — the beam began its ascent to the top of the structure. The beam would later be welded into place, enabling work on the building’s enclosure and interior to begin. The Bill & Melinda Gates Center is slated for completion by the end of 2018 and will be ready for occupancy in early 2019.

Read an excellent recap of the topping out celebration on GeekWire here, and a related UW News release here. See below for a video of the beam-raising and more photos of the evening’s festivities.

We are grateful to our generous donors and friends whose leadership and support over the past several years have made this day possible. We look forward to sharing many exciting and inspiring stories about the faculty and students who will benefit from the building that you helped build!


Brad Smith

Brad Smith, who spearheaded the fundraising campaign, signs the beam


The team overseeing the building project on behalf of the Allen School (from left): Ed Lazowska, Tracy Erbeck, Dawn Lehman, Hank Levy, Paul Beame, and Aaron Timss


Charles Simonyi, Hank Levy, Lisa Simonyi

Charles Simonyi (left) and Lisa Simonyi (right), who co-led the effort to name the building in honor of the Gateses, sign the beam as Hank Levy looks on


Ana Mari Cauce signs the beam

UW President Ana Mari Cauce adds her name to the building beam for posterity


Constance Rice

UW Regent Constance Rice joins in the celebration


LMN Architects team

The team from LMN Architects, which designed the Bill & Melinda Gates Center, pose with the beam


HERB the robot serves soda

HERB – the Home Exploring Robot Butler – serves soda to the crowd inside the Allen Center


Rob Short signing the beam

Campaign co-chair Rob Short (M.S., ’87) signs the beam


Melinda Gates with students

Melinda Gates poses with students she met as part of her advocacy campaign to support more women in STEM fields


Ben Slivka, Lisa Wissner-Slivka

Longtime Allen School supporters Ben Slivka (left) and Lisa Wissner-Slivka


Onstage toast

A toast to the new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering


Beam showing signatures

The beam


Additional photographs here.


December 28, 2017

Allen School celebrates fundraising and construction milestones for new Bill & Melinda Gates Center

Rendering of Gates Center looking toward the Allen CenterToday, the Allen School and University of Washington announced the conclusion of fundraising for the new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering and the “topping out” of the building’s structure — two significant milestones in the school’s quest to expand its impact and educate more of Washington’s students to be the innovators and leaders of tomorrow.

Fundraising for the project was brought to a close thanks to a $15 million gift from Bill and Melinda Gates. This latest gift is distinct from that which inspired the university to name the building in their honor, which was spearheaded by Microsoft and a group of longtime friends and colleagues as a surprise to the couple. More than 300 donors in total contributed to the campaign to build a second computer science building on the UW campus — sustaining the Allen School’s momentum and advancing its reputation as one of the preeminent computer science programs in the nation.

“This is a special honor, because the University of Washington is a special place to me. Melinda and I are thrilled to be able to support this world-class institution in various ways,” Bill Gates told UW News. “Thank you to everyone who made this building possible. I’m excited about what it will mean for the university and our entire community.”

With the topping out, the school moves a step closer to achieving its vision of providing an unparalleled education and research experience to more students. This milestone marks the halfway point in construction, when the structure has reached its maximum height — hence the expression “topping out”— and the final steel beam is ready to be hoisted into place. After that, the construction crew will commence work on the enclosure and interior of the building.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Center is designed to complement the adjacent Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering and provide sufficient space for the school to double annual degree production and strategically grow its faculty. It will also enable pursuit of exciting initiatives that will keep it at the forefront of computing innovation, including purpose-built spaces to house the school’s research in robotics, DNA-based computing, human-computer interaction, and other areas in which the Allen School is or aspires to be a world leader.

“Bill and Melinda are first and foremost driven to have an impact — on innovation, on people’s lives, and on society as a whole,” noted Hank Levy, Allen School Director and Wissner-Slivka Chair in Computer Science & Engineering. “The building will equip us to expand our impact on all three, with new labs, classrooms, offices, and collaboration spaces that will help us deliver an unparalleled experience to more students and continue pushing the boundaries of our field.”

Construction site of the Bill & Melinda Gates CenterAmong other highlights of the Bill & Melinda Gates Center will be a new undergraduate commons that will function as a home away from home for the more than 1,000 students enrolled in the major. It is one of many elements of the building’s design that create an inviting and inclusive environment for the Allen School’s rapidly growing community.

“I’m especially excited about the opportunities that this building will create for women in computer science,” said Melinda Gates. “That’s an area where the Paul G. Allen School has excelled, and an area where I hope this new building will enable women to do even more.”

With the completion of the building fundraising, the Allen School will shift its “Campaign for CSE” to focus on amassing support for student scholarships and fellowships, professorships, and new initiatives — support that will be essential for the school to achieve the vision enabled by its expanded footprint.

“Now we have to fill that building with the people who will generate the breakthrough innovations of tomorrow,” Levy said.

Construction of the Bill & Melinda Gates Center is on track for completion by the end of 2018. The building will be ready for occupancy in early 2019.

For more information on today’s announcement, read the UW News release here. Check out coverage by GeekWire here and Xconomy here.

The Allen School community is exceedingly grateful to Bill and Melinda for investing in our vision, to Microsoft President Brad Smith for his leadership throughout the campaign, and to our many donors and friends whose generosity and goodwill have made this project possible!

December 13, 2017

Allen School’s second building named the Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering

Exterior rendering of the Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & EngineeringThe University of Washington Board of Regents today approved the naming of the Allen School’s second building as the Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering. The naming of the building in honor of the Gateses was made possible by gifts from Microsoft and a group of local business and philanthropic leaders who are longtime friends and colleagues of the couple.

“There is wonderful symbolism in having the Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering across the street from the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering on the University of Washington campus,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith in a news release. “As teenagers, Bill and Paul roamed UW computer labs. They went on to change the face of Seattle and the world — first with Microsoft, and later with their philanthropy. I can’t think of a better way for those of us who have had the privilege of working alongside Bill and Melinda to express our gratitude and admiration than to name this building for them.”

Smith and his spouse, Kathy Surace-Smith, are among the group of longtime friends and colleagues of the couple who personally contributed to the naming gift. Smith and fellow donors Charles & Lisa Simonyi spearheaded the fundraising effort to name the building in the Gateses’ honor. Altogether, the Friends of Bill & Melinda contributed more than $30 million toward the project.

Read more about this extraordinary gift in the UW announcement here, and learn more about the building here.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Center is scheduled for completion in December 2018, and will be ready for occupancy in early 2019.

We are tremendously grateful to the Friends of Bill & Melinda for enabling this enduring tribute to the Gateses — and exceedingly proud to have a second home bearing their name. Thank you for giving us the room to grow and deliver a world-class computer science education to more of Washington’s students!

The Friends of Bill & Melinda

  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Jim & Catherine Allchin
  • Rich & Sarah Barton
  • Jeff & MacKenzie Bezos
  • Lloyd & Janet Frink
  • Craig & Marie Mundie
  • Satya & Anu Nadella
  • Jeff & Tricia Raikes
  • Rob Short & Emer Dooley
  • Harry Shum & Ka Yan Chan
  • Brad & Jan Silverberg
  • Charles & Lisa Simonyi
  • Brad Smith & Kathy Surace-Smith
  • John Stanton & Terry Gillespie

Read coverage of the announcement in the Seattle Times, GeekWire, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Xconomy.

October 12, 2017

Fracking in Pittsburgh: Will CMU’s Gates & Hillman Centers be next?

pghThe New York Times reports on a financial lifeline for Pittsburgh International Airport:

“Pittsburgh’s airport is struggling financially and mired in debt …

“For salvation, airport officials are looking down – about 6,000 feet. The quiet runways, it turns out, are sitting on enough natural gas to run the whole state of Pennsylvania for a year and a half, and this month, Consol Energy will drill its first well here to tap the gas …

“After the drilling, which uses hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, begins in earnest and the natural gas royalties kick in, the airport will receive about $20 million a year …”

We cannot help but ask … will CMU’s Gates & Hillman Centers be next? What’s the real story behind Randy Bryant’s resignation as Dean of the School of Computer Science?

August 13, 2014

Bill Gates praises UW CSE Center for Game Science at Education Commission of the States conference in Atlanta

“Imagine if kids poured their time and passion into a video game that taught them math concepts while they barely noticed because it was so enjoyable.  We’ve been supporting the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington, which has developed a free, on-line game called Refraction.  The goal of the game is to rescue animals whose ships are stuck in outer space.  The ships require different amounts of fuel, powered by lasers.  So the players have to manipulate fractions to split the lasers into the right amount of fuel.

“As the kids play the game, the teachers watch a dashboard on their computer that tells them how each student is doing, so they know instantly if the student is getting it or not.  Teachers no longer have to wait for the unit test to find out if their kids understand the material.

“Teachers have not had these tools before.”

Read Gates’s speech in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution here.  Learn about UW CSE’s Center for Game Science here.  Play Refraction here.

July 12, 2012

Seattle Times on UW CSE’s Center for Game Science and non-profit educational startup Enlearn

enlearn“Educators have been struggling for decades to resolve a fundamental problem: Students who are in the same grade because of age often vary greatly in skills, abilities and experiences, even on the first day of kindergarten.

“Teachers are told to differentiate their instruction so that each student gets what she needs ­ a good idea in theory, but hard to pull off in a real classroom …

“That’s the big puzzle that University of Washington computer science professor Zoran Popović hopes to solve with insights gained over the last five years of developing computer learning games that adapt to the skills of individual players so they progress more efficiently toward mastery.

“Popović directs the university’s Center for Game Science.

“He also is the founder and chief scientist at Enlearn (a contraction of “engaged learning”), a not-for-profit organization started with money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

Read the article here.

July 15, 2014

Transitions at the UW Center for Commercialization

lvGeekWire reports:

“Linden Rhoads, who helped boost the number of startups coming out of the University of Washington over the past six years, is stepping down as vice provost of commercialization to return to private industry …

“In a related move, the UW announced that electrical engineering professor Vikram Jandhyala will assume the new role of Vice Provost of Innovation …

“Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, said that Rhoads helped usher in a new era at the University.

“‘She has done many hugely innovative things – particularly notable because she inherited an office in complete disarray due to terrible leadership by her predecessor,’ said Lazowska.

“He added that Jandhyala is a ‘gem.’  ‘The tragedy is that he has stepped down as chair of UW’s Electrical Engineering department, where he was doing a phenomenal job,’ said Lazowska. ‘The good news is that, once he made the decision to step down from EE, the Provost recruited him for this new role.'”

Read more here.

June 24, 2014

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