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MSOE Opens Cyber-Learning Center Built with $34m Alumnus Donation

A Wisconsin university today celebrated the grand opening of a new cyber-learning facility funded by a $34m donation from a former student and his wife. 

Dwight Diercks graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in 1990 with a degree in computer science and engineering. Now senior vice president of software engineering at California-based technology company NVIDIA, Diercks today serves as a regent of the university, which awarded him an honorary engineering doctorate in 2014.

A day-long program of events was held to mark the opening of the Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall, which included a keynote address by Jensen Huang, founder, president, and CEO of NVIDIA.

According to the MSOE website, "Diercks Hall—and the courses taught within—position MSOE at the educational forefront in artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, cyber security, robotics, cloud computing and other next-generation technologies."

The four-floor building features seven contemporary classrooms, nine innovative teaching laboratories, 25 offices for staff, and a 256-seat auditorium. At the heart of the hall is a state-of-the-art data center with an NVIDIA GPU-accelerated AI supercomputer, which is named Rosie after the women known as Rosies who programmed one of the earliest computers, the ENIAC. Rosie is also the name of Diercks' mother, who passed away in 2006.

On the building's third floor, the Caspian Cyber Security Laboratory will allow students to conduct real-world cybersecurity experiments and test defensive mechanisms in a professional and controlled environment. The room is grounded with special shielding paint and an electromagnetic field to prevent computer viruses that students are working on from spreading to the rest of campus through the wireless network.

The substantial donation given by Diercks and his wife, Dian, was bolstered with an additional $4m contributed by several individuals and corporations to support long-term operations and maintenance of the facility. 

Speaking at today's live-streamed opening ceremony, held in the new hall's atrium, the mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, quipped, "When I first heard the words artificial intelligence I thought someone had heard I had inflated my SAT scores," before declaring Friday, September 13, 2019, to be Dwight and Dian Diercks Day throughout the entire city of Milwaukee.

After Diercks and his wife cut a red ribbon with a giant pair of scissors to officially open the hall, he shared with the crowd his pleasure at learning that the addition of an external staircase to the building had increased the facility's final size to a square footage of 65,536, which is the number of different values representable in a number of 16 bits.

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