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Full STEAM Ahead

Full STEAM Ahead

This article is from the Spring 2016 edition of Otterbein Towers magazine, out now. Read more articles from the latest edition online.

There will be plenty of winners — Otterbein students, central Ohio businesses and the city of Westerville among them — once the University’s groundbreaking STEAM Innovation Center opens later this year at 60 Collegeview Road on the west side of campus.

STEAM connects Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics — just as the STEAM Innovation Center will connect Otterbein educators and students with businesses, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, innovators and regional economic development partners, all at one location.

Seen as a first-of-its-kind concept, the center will provide for integration of Otterbein’s academic curriculum with the business community. It is designed to serve as a catalyst for entrepreneurialism and economic development in Westerville and to convert ideas to commercialized products and services.

 “This new center positions Otterbein as a leader among universities with strong liberal arts and science traditions,” says President Kathy Krendl.

The center will be home to two resident enterprises, PolymerOhio and Ikove Capital Partners; provide lab space for businesses; and house the University’s systems engineering program, which launched in fall 2015. Students will work shoulder-to-shoulder with engineers and other STEAM professionals at the center, complete on-site internships and have an inside track to jobs after graduation.

The Westerville community, central Ohio and the state as a whole will also be big winners. A study commissioned by the University estimates the direct impact of the project will result in the creation of 200 jobs in five years totaling $16 million in payroll. The state and local tax impact over five years is projected at $3.6 million.

It will cost an estimated $3.5 million to renovate the 60 Collegeview Road building, so it can house the program for the first phase of the project. The University, its partners, donors and corporate gifts are expected to provide funding toward the end investment of $10.8 million. In early May, the State of Ohio awarded $500,000 from its capital budget to the STEAM project. The project is part of the Campus Renewal funding priority of the “Where We Stand Matters” campaign.

A contest is now underway to come up with a creative name for the unique building space. You can submit your ideas at www.otterbein.edu/steamcenter or #steammix.

The STEAM project is already creating a lot of buzz with Otterbein faculty, students, staff members and alumni as well as in the business community. Here are comments about the positive impact the innovation center is expected to have on Otterbein and all those it serves.



Lead Software Engineer, Gap Inc.

Q. Given your experience in the technology field, what do you think universities should be doing to take science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students to the next level of exploration, invention and collaborative work?

A. The STEAM Innovation Center and similar programs are a great place to start… Any kind of collaboration that can be done in real time between businesses, students and educators will help students be better prepared for their first jobs out of college. Educators can also learn more about what’s going on in the corporate world and adjust their learning plans to more accurately reflect the types of things that would benefit their students.

Q. What is your initial impression of Otterbein’s plan for the STEAM Center?

A. I love the idea of this center. The addition of “art” to STEM is a great innovation. That is the missing piece in a lot of STEM programs. In my day-to-day work in the software engineering field, there is as much art as there is science to the things we build.

Q. What do you think this center could mean for future Otterbein students and technology companies in central Ohio?

A. It will help bridge a gap between academics and real-world application. Most of the people I work with did some sort of internship during their schooling, but it was a situation where schooling stopped and you focused fully on the internship and vice versa. Being able to integrate the two — where learning and doing happen together — will be a great experience for students and companies alike.


Director of Systems Engineering, Otterbein

Q. What do you think this center will mean for future students and Otterbein’s place in the community?

A. Employers will look at the companies and the projects that students have worked on and will be very excited about hiring them. The STEAM Innovation Center is unique among liberal-arts institutions and among Otterbein’s peer group. The concept is the wave of the future as far as interdisciplinary education goes. The thing that makes Otterbein’s approach unique is the inclusion of companies that will be resident in the center. This will help greatly with economic development in the community.

Q. What sort of innovations and discoveries do you hope to see coming from STEAM once it is up and running?

A.The companies that are residents of the center will determine that. At present there are three high-tech companies with exciting new technologies they are developing that will create a real impact on how we approach the use of our computers and the internet. Beyond high-tech start-ups, I think the students will be able to help mid-sized companies with development of new products and processes as well as improvements to existing processes.

Q. How can alumni collaborate with the center?

A. Alumni can participate by helping to support the center financially, and their companies can sponsor projects at the center. In addition, they can offer student internships and return to campus to speak to student groups and classes.


Systems Engineering Major

Q. What’s the most exciting thing about the STEAM Innovation Center?

A. My classmates and I will have the chance to solve real-world problems with industry partners before we graduate. The experiences we will gain from the STEAM Innovation Center will give us an advantage when we enter the workforce.

Q. How about you personally?

A.The STEAM Innovation Center will help me launch a chapter of the Society of Women Engineers at Otterbein. STEAM will provide this new organization the opportunity to influence young women and encourage them to consider engineering.


Systems Engineering Major

Q. What’s the most exciting thing about the STEAM center?

A. It’s the opportunity it opens up for the systems engineering program at Otterbein. With the exclusive workspace, our classes and lab work will be done more effectively and flexibly. It will also give me the opportunity to work at internships that would have been crossed off my list due to commuting, as some companies will be working out of the center.

Q. How about you personally?

A. This center means a great deal to me, as it will allow me to have an even greater hands-on experience through this program. With the increased technology and tools at our disposal, the STEAM Innovation Center will launch our program to an elite level.


Executive Director, PolymerOhio

Q. Why did PolymerOhio decide it wants to be part of the STEAM Center?

A. It was because we saw significant mutual benefits. PolymerOhio works with manufacturers in central Ohio who will utilize the innovation center as a resource. As a result, the students will have a greatly enhanced educational experience and job prospects. Manufacturers will use the center’s resources to accelerate innovation and find their next generation of employees. 

Q. What do you find most exciting about the plans for the center?

A. The mixing of students and academia with the innovative entrepreneurs and successful regional manufacturers will create an exciting, creative and dynamic environment. Interaction will result in cross-fertilization of ideas to the benefit of all that participate. There are few places that I know where a student, an entrepreneur developing leading-edge technology and an established manufacturer are interacting, sharing ideas and learning from each other.

Q. What sort of innovations and discoveries should we expect to see coming from Polymer Ohio once STEAM is up and running?
We envision that these manufacturers, particularly the small- and medium-sized companies that have few resources, will benefit from the STEAM Innovation Center in two ways. The first is accelerating the introduction of new products and processes to market. Second, we will use the center to expose manufacturers to new advanced manufacturing technologies, accelerating the adoption of those technologies in their facilities.