An exciting beginning: Burns & McDonnell Design Innovation Lab opens

A ribbon cutting officially opened the new Burns & McDonnell Design Innovation Lab at MCC-Business & Technology. From left: campus president Dr. Jackie Gill, MCC Foundation board member Carolyn Watley, Burns & McDonnell’s Gabe Hernandez, Chancellor Kimberly Beatty, student Charley Viehland, Trustee Phil LeVota and Kansas City Councilman Scott Taylor. Student Joel Galler is behind Dr. Beatty. (Photos by Tim Engle/MCC)

The new Burns & McDonnell Design Innovation Lab is the first partnership of its kind at Metropolitan Community College, but Chancellor Kimberly Beatty is resolved that it won’t be the last.

“This is an exciting beginning,” the chancellor said at the grand opening of the program Oct. 5 at MCC’s Business & Technology campus. She challenged the College’s industry partners to replicate the Burns & McDonnell initiative on other MCC campuses.

The Design Innovation Lab is refurbished classroom space with new desks, computers and a 36-inch plotter for printing blueprints. But that’s not all: The new lab also will serve as home base for supplemental instruction for a handful of high-performing students who plan to go into the computer-aided drafting/design (CADD) and engineering technology fields. Burns & McDonnell employees facilitate the weekly sessions.

The new space

This semester, four students were selected. Each week, the students will immerse themselves in real-world projects in the engineering, science and technology fields.

Best of all, once they complete the program, MCC students will be considered for internships or employment at Burns & Mac.

The Design Innovation Lab program was made possible by gifts from Burns & McDonnell vice president Gabriel Hernandez and the engineering firm. Hernandez is also a member of the MCC Foundation board of directors.

“So excited to get it off the ground,” Hernandez said at the ceremony. The program, he added, is about “creating the pipeline” for future industry professionals. It will promote creative problem-solving and “more efficient and effective” thinking.

“We’re trying to take the MCC student of today (and) create the designer of tomorrow,” Hernandez said.

The lab features Burns & McDonnell branding.

The Design Innovation Lab “will make a difference in the lives of everyone in the program today and those in the future,” said Dr. Jackie Gill, Business & Technology president.

Joel Galler, one of the students receiving supplemental instruction this semester, says it “has shown me how the skills I’ve learned in the classroom will be used in the workplace. Working through a real-world problem has given me a deeper understanding of the design process than I’ve gained so far in my normal CADD classes.”

Charley Viehland, another student, says the experience has benefited him because he can apply skills he’s learning day to day. It also “brings to the surface what I don’t know.”

“Being exposed to a company’s real design work is the next best thing to an internship or working for them,” adds Viehland, who’s working on a degree in engineering technology with an architectural emphasis. “It helps with confidence in interviews and on the first day of the job.”

Dr. Beatty noted that there are 100-plus students in the MCC engineering technology program but that Kansas City is home to some 75 architecture and engineering firms. She’d like to “double and triple” the number of students in the program to accommodate demand.

To learn more about Burns & McDonnell’s commitment to STEM education, visit

To learn more about MCC’s engineering technology program, visit

More scenes from the event:

Chancellor Kimberly Beatty
Burns & McDonnell vice president Gabe Hernandez
MCC Trustee Phil LeVota (center) with Chancellor Kimberly Beatty and Kansas City Councilman Scott Taylor
Joel Galler (left) and Charley Viehland are two of the four students receiving supplemental instruction this semester from Burns & McDonnell employees.
Burns & McDonnell’s Gabe Hernandez (from left), Jason Banuelos, Michael Chasser and Roger Hormann
Burns & McDonnell’s Jennifer Wood (left) and Kelsey Edwards are adjunct instructors at the Business & Technology campus. Edwards is also an alumna.
The glazed doughnuts spelled out the new space’s name.
The MCC Foundation’s LaDonna Thompson (from left), Jessica Ramirez and Alison Baldree
Business & Technology president Dr. Jackie Gill with Burns & Mac’s Jason Banuelos and Roger Hormann
Dr. Jackie Gill (from left), Gabe Hernandez, Scott Taylor, Dr. Kimberly Beatty
Scott Taylor (from left), Carolyn Watley, Gabe Hernandez, Mike Cline, Joel Galler, Charley Viehland, Dr. Kimberly Beatty, Phil LeVota and Dr. Jackie Gill
Guests received this keychain memento created by the campus Fab Lab. Above is one side; below is the other.

Watch Facebook Live video of the ceremony

Related: Burns & McDonnell Design Innovation Lab to be unveiled at Oct. 5 ceremony