OSU engineering classes to start fall 2021 in DISCOVERY building
Oklahoma State University is planning to use the Baker Hughes Energy Innovation Center building in the Innovation District for research, engineering classes and activities connected to the OKC business community as it fills the workforce with ready-to-hire engineers.
College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Dean Paul Tikalsky said OSU has been working on getting more energy, avionics and computer software engineers into Oklahoma City’s workforce to meet the ever growing demand.
Over the last few years, President Hargis and Dean Tikalsky met with leaders in Oklahoma City’s aerospace industry. The goal was to create something similar to what OSU has at the Helmrich Center (HRC) to meet the work force demands in Tulsa. At that center, OSU operates the School of Materials Science and Engineering and graduates mechanical and materials engineers, where students have paid jobs and internships with industry partners in the morning, then go to classes in the evening. At OSU Tulsa’s HRC students research and develop materials for energy, medical, aerospace and electronic technologies. Having students ready to work in these fields was a need identified by Tulsa industry leaders.
“The discussion for serving Oklahoma City in such a cooperative engineering education stalled because there was nowhere to put the program,” said Tikalsky.
Then, Baker Hughes called. OSU and Baker Hughes were working together on a several research projects. The company’s transition from GE provided them with an opportunity to finding a university that could share in the capabilities of this nearly new research and training center . Baker Hughes Vice President of Marketing, Strategy and Ventures Taylor Shinn asked OSU if the school could use the building and within minutes, Shinn heard a resounding “Yes” from OSU.
“This will give us the nexus we need to get this program going,” said Tikalsky. “Being in the OKC Innovation District is the perfect place to put this program, especially with all the development that could be coming because of MAPS 4. We’re excited to get involved in the area.”
Baker Hughes has agreed to a 10-year lease of part of the building, soon to be called OSU DISCOVERY. Baker Hughes is operating on the fifth floor and will work with students as part of the university’s program.
In September, Tinker Air Force Base signed a partnership agreement with OSU to develop cutting-edge research projects and create new educational opportunities for students and service members. More industry partners are being confirmed and will figure out their plans to sublease space on the fourth floor so they’ll have room for their student interns.
In the OSU system, students will spend two years in Stillwater, then have the option to move their education to Oklahoma City, should they choose a program that’s taught at DISCOVERY.
“Having the students here will create a lot of excitement for them about their career possibilities,” said Tikalsky. “We have industry partners in Stillwater, but being in an urban area will be beneficial to to both our academic program and the workforce development needed in OKC.”
And boosting the engineer power in the city and state is needed, said Tikalsky. There are approximately 1,000 software/hardware computer engineering jobs available across the aerospace and energy sectors in Oklahoma, but the three engineering schools – OSU, The University of Oklahoma, University of Tulsa – only produce about 200 computer engineer graduates a year.
Some of the companies in Oklahoma City that need these engineers include Delaware Resource Group, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. and Skydweller Aero.
“We hope our presence in Oklahoma City, allowing students to work with industry leaders, will double the size of our program,” Tikalsky said. “We want to create a talent pool for Oklahoma City.”
The university is hiring staff now for DISCOVERY, though some current faculty could be shifted from Stillwater. It takes about a year to hire new university faculty, so the goal is to start having classes in DISCOVERY in fall 2021.
Besides bringing more education to the building, the university partnership allows more people to use the space, which has a prominent presence along Interstate 235. A new restaurant operator will take over the café space, which is open to the public and area employers. The large open first and fourth floor plazas have plenty of space for social distancing and picturesque views of downtown. Letting people into public areas of the building allows OSU to fulfill its Land Grant mission as well, said Tikalsky. He said the goal is to use it for OSU alumni gatherings, nonprofit activities, conferences or even after-hours networking events.