Otterbein’s Impressive STEAM Center: Innovation Inside and Out

WRITTEN BY Jill Jones for publication on the PolymerOhio Manufacturing Services blog

What used to be a huge yet humdrum warehouse purchased by Otterbein University in 2006 and used by them over the years as a storage facility is now in the middle of an impressive transformation. The 61,000-square-foot building at 60 Collegeview Drive in Westerville, Ohio, is currently being transformed into Otterbein’s stunning, high-tech STEAM Innovation Center — a building that some, when viewing it at night, have likened to a UFO. It’s not otherworldly, but what is housed within is definitely the first of its kind in the country.

Beyond the expansive front wall of creatively intermingling clear and textured windows, an entrepreneurial ecosystem designed to create a collaborative environment for manufacturing start-ups and innovators, and students and educators, is springing to life. The STEAM Center’s purpose is just as impressive as its outward appearance. It’s meant to wed education with business and industry by offering lab space and services for small to mid-sized manufacturers (SMMs) while providing educational space for students. Not only will students be taught within the engineering-focused classrooms, but they will also have the opportunity to intern with the SMMs that are utilizing the space for innovation and creation to grow their businesses.

Another unique attribute of the STEAM Innovation Center is their use of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as their paradigm for the facility’s design. Despite there being no plans to apply for LEED certification, the project has maintained LEED standards by incorporating solar panels into the design that will power half of the facility as well as installing eco-friendly recycled carpet and LED lighting throughout.

As the project has moved forward in construction since it was first announced in February of this year, it has also moved forward in staffing. The first executive director for the facility, Erin Bender, was announced at the beginning of the summer. With a broad and diverse background in science, law and agriculture, Bender brings with her a degree in environmental science, law experience with chemical patents, and nearly a decade with The Ohio State University’s (OSU) agricultural and veterinarian schools. Her most recent position with OSU was Director of Licensing, Physical Science at their Office of Technology Commercialization.

As of this month, the $10.8 million STEAM Innovation Center project is one-third of the way through its 3-phase development, just in time for the start of Otterbein’s fall classes. Partners of the Center — including PolymerOhio — will move their offices into the building beginning in September. The 2nd phase of the project will complete sometime this fall, while the 3rd and final phase is scheduled for completion in 2017.

At the end of everything, the STEAM Center’s contributions to the city of Westerville are projected to be just as impressive as its overall purpose. It is expected to create 200 high-value jobs in the city over the course of 5 years, with a total of $16M in payroll. Over those same 5 years, the state and local tax impact is projected at $3.6 million.

PolymerOhio’s decision to partner with Otterbein on the STEAM Innovation Center and move their offices into the facility wasn’t a difficult one. Looking long-term at the benefit the Center would bring to SMMs and acknowledging the opportunity to guide our future workforce in the direction of the manufacturing industry, becoming a partner was the obvious choice.

As stated by Bruce Fawcett, Executive Director of PolymerOhio: “Manufacturers can benefit from these resources through a faster-to-market introduction of new products and services and the development of our future workforce, supporting our growth plans and producing increased revenue and new job creation.”

OH!Manufacturing and its parent company PolymerOhio will move their offices into the STEAM Innovation Center late next month. The official ribbon cutting for the center will be on October 1, 2016. Please get in touch with OH!Manufacturing if you would like to discuss how the center can help your business with its innovation, research and development.