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Learning is such a wonderfully variable activity.

It happens in the classroom most often, of course. But what makes Florida Tech so special is that the classroom is really just the starting point for our students’ education.

So as we head from spring to summer, with both the growth (spring showers, etc.) and time away from the classroom associated with those seasons, I wanted to take a look at two projects growing here on campus that highlight some of the other ways – beyond the aforementioned classroom – we are teaching our students.

First, let’s head for the pool. Opened in 2011, the Panther Aquatic Center just recently earned one of the highest distinctions in sustainable construction: It was awarded a LEED Silver Certification.

With this achievement, the facility, which includes locker rooms and offices in addition to its competition and recreational swimming pools, became the only LEED certified outdoor pool system in Florida.

That accomplishment alone is worth our praise, but what makes the project even better is that our students were involved for the last several years in making this happen. They worked with the university’s Facilities Operations as well as outside contractors. Their projects in Professor Ken Lindeman’s applied sustainability course played a key role in the process. And throughout, they learned in ways that could not be recreated in the classroom.

Ken told us how proud he is of the students who helped achieve this, and let me add my voice to that sentiment. What a wonderful learning experience!

We are also moving forward on another project that will accentuate the non-traditional learning experiences of our students: Construction is now underway on the south side of campus for the Harris Student Design Center.

You might remember the announcement in January, when our Melbourne partner said it would donate $1 million to Florida Tech to fund this amazing learning environment. It’s where student teams will fabricate and assemble the projects later featured in our student design showcase, from race cars to robots.

As such, it will have a host of special features when it opens in the fall, including a spray booth, welding stations, a 2.5-ton overhead crane and a parts cleaning and acid etching area. Not the stuff you’d find amid the desks and chalkboards of a stereotypical classroom, is it?

Then again, Florida Tech is not your stereotypical university.

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