West Houston Institute

West Houston Institute

The West Houston Institute has been consciously designed to facilitate the collision of ideas and concepts. By creating a synergy between different kinds of spaces and learning opportunities, HCC students, faculty, staff, and the Greater Houston community will find a home for innovation and learning like no other.

Combining experiential classrooms and labs, a fully outfitted Makerspace, a facilitated collaboration space, a conference space, and a connecting learning commons, WHI will create intersections and networks of learning and innovation.


Center for Entrepreneurship

HCC has been a leader in entrepreneurship training since the inception of the Center for Entrepreneurship in 2008, and these efforts will expand into the WHI with increased focus on rapid prototyping, Design Thinking and other practical workshops designed with entrepreneurs in mind.

For more information, contact Sandra Louvier.

Collaboration Programs

The West Houston Institute will offer a wide range of programs leveraging our collaboration spaces, particularly our facilitated Collaboratorium. Some of these activities will exist as workshops, and others will support the activities of the MakerSpace, the IDEAS Academy, Teaching Innovation Lab, the Center for Entrepreneurship, and STEAMworks, all of which are heavily collaborative in nature.

For more information, contact Laura Williamson.

IDEAS Academy

IDEAS Academy is a new kind of learning experience at Houston Community College where students develop the creative mindsets and skill sets that will help them thrive in a digital and global 21st century society. 

“IDEAS” stands for Innovation, Design, and Entrepreneurship integrated into the Arts and Sciences. The name also recognizes the power of big ideas to change the world. Through team-based coursework and projects that intersect disciplines, students learn how to connect the dots and recognize opportunities, practice ideation techniques to generate novel approaches to problems, prototype concepts using the latest digital tools, and successfully implement their solutions in the real world.

For more information, contact Jordan Carswell.

Learning Commons

The West Houston Institute is designed with a wide variety of informal collaboration spaces to allow for spontaneous interactions among all patrons of the Institute. Based on collaboration principles applied at Google and elsewhere, these spaces facilitate intersections among the diverse populations we expect to make use of the WHI.


The MakerSpace is a unique facility for the region in that its outreach will include short courses, credit courses, leisure learning, certifications and many K-12 programs to “hook” students into STEAM. It is also the perfect venue to support our engineering and entrepreneurial programs through rapid prototyping, and our IDEAS Academy with hands-on project-based learning opportunities.

For more information, contact Susan Thompson.


The WHI will offer a range of opportunities for K12 students to experience and become engaged in Innovation, Design Thinking, Entrepreneurship, the Arts, and Sciences. STEAMworks will provide a programmatic outreach and engagement strategy to bring students and their teachers into the institute through a variety of workshops, camps, and competitions.

For more information, contact Susan Thompson.

Teaching Innovation Lab

The Teaching Innovation Lab will innovate teaching from the bottom up. It will leverage advanced learning spaces and technology to experiment with new teaching modalities and capture and analyze the results, using Lean Startup Principles (Ries, 2010), Medici principles (Johansson, 2006), and Liquid Networks (Johnson, 2011).

For more information, contact Tom Haymes.



The West Houston Institute design was inspired in part by two books, Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect and Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From. Johansson’s book explored the effects on the Renaissance of the Medici’s bringing together of a wide spectrum of thinkers including artists, architects, and scientists. This creative stew resulted in some of the greatest advances of human history and set the stage for The Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution. Johansson posits that if you get a diverse group of people together intersections of thoughts and ideas will happen. The West Houston Center is designed to do that. 

Steven Johnson takes this a step further in his book by explaining that ideas need a fertile ground to flourish. He uses a science analogy to explain this concept. Aside from plasma, matter exists in three states: gaseous, liquid, and solid. In a gaseous network, ideas float free but are rarely implemented because there is no structure for them to take root. In a solid network, structures are so inflexible that ideas never change anything. The ideal state for innovation (and learning) is a liquid network. In a liquid network, structures are designed to channel ideas to fruition. Many aspects of the West Houston Center are designed to provide networks for channeling ideas.