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CMU Receives $150M Grant For 'Cutting-Edge' Science & Robotics Facilities

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

The Richard King Mellon Foundation announced a multi-year investment in Carnegie Mellon University on Thursday. The $150 million grant will help build a “cutting-edge” science building on the university’s campus, as well as create a center for robotics innovation and advanced manufacturing at Hazelwood Green.

CMU President Farnam Jahanian said historically, investments in science have fueled a broader enjoyment of prosperity; this is one such investment.

“What’s really exciting is to be able to create these new industries, create these new markets, create economic opportunities for all citizens,” he said. “So that we can all benefit from the advances that we see in science and in technology and in engineering.”

Jahanian noted that scientific discovery is advancing at a rapid pace, thanks in part to interdisciplinary interactions such as those that will be enabled by the creation of new science centers in Oakland and in Hazelwood.

He said those interactions are “increasingly crucial … in addressing complex societal challenges,” in healthcare, transportation, environmental sustainability, food security and clean energy.

Sam Reiman directs the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and he said they’ve partnered with CMU for 75 years now. A seed investment in computer science helped lead to the creation of autonomous vehicles, which in turn catalyzed a new industry in Pittsburgh.

“The real fruits of this will not fully materialize for another 40 or 50 years,” he said, noting that there will be meaningful short-term effects, such as job creation.

People in Hazelwood and other communities “too often have been left as bystanders to such opportunity,” read an announcement of the investment, and both CMU and the RK Mellon Foundation have committed to providing education and training opportunities.

Reiman said RK Mellon is committed to helping make Pittsburgh the center of new economy jobs.

“But we also want to make absolutely sure that beginning in pre-K all the way through [grade] 12, through adulthood, that we’re providing resources to help individuals be prepared for exactly these types of careers,” he said.

The fields of robotics, artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing are expected to become $2 trillion industries by 2030, CMU officials wrote in the release.

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at