Nearly 50 Florida Polytechnic University students and leaders filled the Florida State Capitol on Tuesday for “Florida Poly Day.” The annual event focuses on promoting the future of research and innovation at the state’s only university dedicated exclusively to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
This year’s visit included one-on-one meetings with legislators to discuss the university’s mission, applied research initiatives, faculty hiring, industry partnerships and the school’s economic impact on Florida. Their messages included how their accomplishments at Florida Poly are preparing them to become the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs in high-tech industries, and what students need to continue to succeed.
“In true enterprising fashion, Florida Poly students are sharing their experience and vision to grow the university and its innovative outside-the-box ideas,” said State Representative Colleen Burton of Lakeland. “These bright men and women are the future of our state and it’s exciting to learn more about their accomplishments at Florida Poly.”
During their meetings with lawmakers, Florida Poly students, along with President Dr. Randy K. Avent and other university leaders, discussed specific university needs, including final funding for an on-campus applied research facility, and funding for the Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship.
“Our students and faculty have a great passion to be successful in what they do,” said Rick Maxey, Florida Poly Director of Government Relations. “By bringing Florida Poly to the Capitol, we are showing our lawmakers who we really are and what we are capable of doing.”
Florida Poly has a mission to ensure at least ten percent of their graduates immediately start-up STEM-related companies and at least fifteen percent work in those companies. To do so, the university currently has an Entrepreneurship Center that provides support to students establishing their own STEM-related businesses based on products and innovations they develop. The center accomplishes the goal of Florida Poly students establishing viable Florida-based companies and employing workers in high-tech fields with above-average wages.
“I strongly support innovation and entrepreneurs,” said State Senator Kelli Stargel of Lakeland. “I am committed to improving education, especially STEM. Florida Poly is unique, unlike any other university in the state. We must continue the growth and collaboration of entrepreneurship and STEM within our students, for that is what will help build the skill sets to grow our economy and keep it competitive.”
Florida Poly students and staff expressed the need for faculty funding to continue growth of their project-based curriculum and the research enterprise. Currently, university faculty conducts leading-edge applied research, which is resulting in marketable outcomes and the creation of companies with high-paying, high-tech jobs. This curriculum is preparing students to be innovative problem-solvers and high-tech professionals who are ready to employ in high-tech industries.
“We have come a long way with STEM education,” said Kathy Mizereck, Florida Poly Assistant Vice President of Government Relations. “We have faculty and students to thank for that, but this is just the beginning for Florida Poly. Our students and faculty are one of a kind, not only disciplined but driven to learn as much as possible in order to be the best in high-tech industries.”
Florida Poly graduated its first class in January 2017. Eighteen students received degrees in Innovation and Technology, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and Electrical Engineering. The University offers six undergraduate degree programs and two master’s degree programs, with 19 unique areas of concentration in the College of Engineering and the College of Innovation and Technology. Graduating its first class is a historic milestone for Florida’s newest university.