Otterbein opens center that links students to employers

New facility offers platform to project based learning.

By Emily Jeffries

Otterbein students majoring in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) disciplines will soon be able to test and create new ideas while working directly with employers thanks to a state-of-the-art facility that opened in October.

Called The Point at Otterbein University, the 61,000 square-foot facility offers a platform for project-based learning and creates a pipeline to local employers who share the space.

“We thought of how this space is also a starting point, a launching point and a point of innovation,” said Erin Bender, executive director of the center, which is located on the west side of Otterbein’s campus.

Through The Point, aspiring engineers, scientists, artists and mathematicians at Otterbein will get real-world experience working with organizations leasing the space, including PolymerOhio, a membership organization, focusing on accelerating growth in the polymer industry; edgeThingZ, an Internet of Things (IoT) product realization company; and companies funded by Ikove Capital Partners, a venture capital firm specializing in startups and early stage investments.

“Otterbein is making greater connections than it ever has before,” said Mark Thresher, chairman of Otterbein’s board of trustees.

More employers are expected to lease the space, officials say. By renting to businesses, Otterbein officials hope to attract new companies to the region. Westerville Mayor Kathy Cocuzzi estimates that the center could create up to 200 jobs in five years.

“Many [of the businesses] will be tenants,” Bender said. “Others will be a host site for interns and others will donate to the center to support our approach.”

Students began using the facility in fall of 2016.

Equipped with 3D printers and well-equipped wood, machine and electronics shops, the center offers lab space and services for students to hone their skills and to support start-up businesses as well as research, development and prototyping for small- to medium-sized manufacturers.

“It is a showcase for 21st century learners,” said Otterbein President Kathy Krendl.

The new facility expands the program and “changes the way Otterbein teaches and develops students,” Thresher said.

The Point also fosters further collaboration between Otterbein, Columbus State Community College and area high schools.

More than 300 students, families, faculty, staff, supporters, partners and community members attended The Point’s groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 1, where officials announced a $1 million donation from the Vida S. Clements Foundation to support The Point. Otterbein, a liberal arts college, launched a systems engineering degree in 2015.


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