Shortly after Randy K. Avent arrived as Florida Polytechnic University’s first president in 2014, talk turned to the need for a state-of-the-art lab and research facility at the state’s only public university focused exclusively on STEM education.
Five years later, Florida Poly has taken a major step in meeting that need by breaking ground on its second academic building, the Applied Research Center, an 85,000-square-foot hub that will house research and teaching laboratories, student maker spaces, conference rooms, and faculty offices.
At a time when entrepreneurial-minded students and faculty both look for resources to bring their research to market, the new center will help with recruitment at the university along Interstate 4 in Lakeland and boost the economy of Polk County and the state, Avent says.
“This is going to really allow us to grow the university and grow its impact,” Avent says. “As our faculty grows and our emphasis on research grows, it’s more important that we have a building dedicated to research space. It’s very important for recruiting strong faculty. What I’ve learned through the years is probably the most important thing for a faculty member is having space where they can do their research. This building will have a lot of state-of-the-art lab space for their research. If they are able to commercialize their research, or at least apply for a patent, that’s just icing on the cake. For students, there’s a maker space, because our program is very heavily built around projects where students go off and apply the things that they’ve learned to solve real-world problems.”
Right now, students are using shipping trailers to work on projects. At a university with a curriculum emphasizing projects, that restricts them from welding and other activities.
Faculty, meanwhile, are rotating in and out of the four to six full research labs in the Innovation, Science, and Technology building, which primarily houses classroom space and teaching labs.
“This will provide that research space for the faculty that is so important because if you are a county that has a technical research university, you can typically experience on average four times more growth in your GDP than counties that don’t have that,” Avent says. “So that research mission is very important to get up and going.”
The Applied Research Center is scheduled to open in August 2021, at the start of the 2021-22 academic year. Skanska USA is the builder and HOK is the architect. After the Applied Research Center opens, the third planned academic building in Florida Poly’s master plan is a student achievement center to house career services, retention programs, tutoring and possibly center to host professional conferences.
To learn more about Florida Poly go to this link: Florida Polytechnic University.