ANDERSON – What started as a concept in 2013 will become a reality today when students start taking classes at the new Purdue Polytechnic Institute in Anderson.
The facility is a collaboration between Purdue University, the Flagship Enterprise Center, the city of Anderson and companies that have donated millions of dollars in equipment.
Dakota Welker, a graduate of Anderson High School, said several years ago the Purdue Polytechnic and Maker Space would have never been thought of in Anderson.
Welker will graduate in May with a degree in engineering technology and is currently seeking an internship.
“To be able to get experience with the new technology is really nice and to be able to learn more that is related to industry,” he said of the new facility on Scatterfield Road.
Welker said he has told other students about the manufacturing space and the new machinery that he described as an exciting experience.
On Friday, Dennis Owen, associate professor of computer and information technology for 32 years with Purdue University, was settling into his new office space on the second floor of the building.
“This is a showcase facility with a lot of space,” he said. “It gives us the ability to do the things we always wanted to do but didn’t have the space. This will ramp up our programs to the next level.”
Owen said a facility like this will give his students the opportunity to experience the same laboratory facilities, components and technology that they would get in industry.
“We will have here what you actually do in industry,” he said.
Owen said the connection between the academic facility to the manufacturing space will give students the opportunity to participate in internships and special projects that bring education from the classroom experience to real-life job experiences.
The Purdue Polytechnic Institute and Maker Space is a 94,000-square-foot facility located on Scatterfield Road, directly north of the Ford AutoWorld dealership.
Purdue is leasing 44,000 square feet from the Flagship Enterprise Center for 15 years.
The facility cost $17 million. The city of Anderson issued a $15 million bond issue to cover a portion of the construction costs that will be repaid through a combination of Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) funds and Community Revitalization Enhancement District (CREeD) revenues.
The CREeD District is expected to generate $11,260,000 over the next 15 years and the remainder of the funding will be obtained through the TIF District.
Corey Sharp, director of Purdue University Anderson, said the facility was completed on time and the academic wing is 90 percent complete.
“We’re really excited to have moved in. Our staff has been here for a little over a week registering students,” he said.
Approximately 130 students are enrolled for the first semester and several recruitment events are scheduled, including one in February for 60 students from Anderson High School.
Sharp said Dr. Gary Bertoline, dean of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute in West Lafayette, is excited to see this project become a reality and the growth the Anderson campus has experienced.
“We’ve doubled our enrollment over the past five years and with this we are going to be able to do that again over the next several years,” he said.
Sharp said the Purdue Polytechnic Institute Anderson will be offering a degree in which the curriculum is developed for the specific needs of an employer.
Greg Winkler, executive director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, said there is nothing like the Anderson facility in Indiana and none to his knowledge in the country.
“For the city to have this relationship with the largest engineering university in the country is unique,” he said. “The combination of going from technical classroom straight to the Maker Space and then to the manufacturing space makes this facility unique.”
The Maker Space is expected to be operational in the next several months as the equipment is being put in place.
“I think this changes everything over the next decade,” Winkler said. “This particular collaboration with Purdue, the city and Flagship will have more impact on Anderson than anything we’ve done yet.”
He noted a student can obtain a four-year Purdue University engineering degree in Anderson at a total cost of $35,000.
As an example, Sharp said, the promise of the facility is already being realized.
“We already have a young entrepreneur in Anderson that has an idea for a new product that will require heavy engineering,” he said. “It really started as just a sketch on a napkin and we have a class right now starting to work on the CAD (computer-aided drafting) drawing.”
Sharp said the actual prototype will be built in the Anderson facility.
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.
By the numbers
Purdue Polytechnic Institute and Maker Space
Building: 94,000 square feet; Purdue University leasing 44,000 square feet
Students: Approximately 130 enrolled for semester
Total cost: $17 million