Hammers banging. Welders buzzing. Saws screaming. Engines humming. Mortar slopping. Those are the sights and sounds off Danforth Road, just west of I-35, where Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s new Danforth campus is taking shape.
“We are moving along nicely on the construction. So far we are not behind, which is pretty phenomenal for a construction project of this size,” said Francis Tuttle Technology Center Superintendent Michelle Keylon. Crews just began hanging glass and should have the building enclosed in time for winter.
“They can just be working on the inside of the building. So that’ll be nice,” she said.
Set back on 20 acres and rounding out to 155,000 square feet, the new state-of-the-art facility scheduled to open in August 2021 is not just another school building, but a launchpad for higher learning, for careers, and especially for new businesses, according to Keylon.
She said while the center will offer specialized college preparatory courses through its engineering, its bio-science and medicine, its computer science academies, and its career-geared programs such as cosmetology, interactive media, and pre-nursing, the facility’s new Entrepreneurship Academy will be unique.
“We will be the first career tech institution in Oklahoma to do an entrepreneurship academy,” she said, saying Francis Tuttle leadership is interested in what an entrepreneurship hub can look like for its students and the community as a whole.
Innovation Center is on the move
Earlier Keylon explained how Francis Tuttle will be moving its Innovation Center from its Covell campus in Edmond south to the new Danforth campus. It will also be adding a “makerspace” or a “product realization lab.”
“If some of these students — or actually anyone from the community — has an idea for a product to build, they can go into this lab and do prototyping,” she explained. 3-D printers, lathes, welders, sewing machines, and other devices will be available for use. “So that’s just another support for people interested in making some sort of product through this process.”
Students enrolled in Francis Tuttle’s Engineering Academy have already rolled out new numerous products, she said.
For their senior year, students enrolled in a capstone course together must pick out a problem and develop a solution. Through this process, Francis Tuttle students have already successfully earned 15 patents.
“We have our 16th group in the process right now working to get a patent,” she said.
Keylon further explained that while Francis Tuttle is indeed a career-tech school, the theme of the new Danforth campus is centered around entrepreneurship, programs structured to not only give students the skills necessary for their chosen careers, but also the tools, understanding, and support they would need should they want to start their own businesses.
“Let’s say a young automotive student may want to open his own technician shop. At some point, he could take this content and really understand what it means to open a new business. Or a cosmetologist understanding what it means to actually go into business for yourself,” she said. “The programs that are at this location have been chosen because they have a very close connection to an entrepreneurial spirit.
“Really, the vision is just to be that place that people think of when they want to get started in business, whether it’s just an idea or where they can go talk to somebody about ‘Do you think this will work?’ all the way up to having a place to start their business, and to get that support over the first one or two years to help them to be profitable.”
Entrepreneurialism in Edmond
Why the heavy focus on entrepreneurialism and why in Edmond?
“It’s really this is a really entrepreneurial generation that’s coming up and they really are interested in that. Oklahoma is made up of a lot of small businesses and there are a lot of entrepreneurs and so it just made sense from that perspective to figure out a way we can support that group of people,” said Keylon.
Keylon said while the entrepreneurial emphasis at the Edmond campus is unique, Francis Tuttle plans to expand the vision to the rest of the school’s 400-square-mile school district now serving Deer Creek, Cashion, Crescent, Putnam City, and Western Heights communities once Edmond’s new campus is up and running.
Edmond, she said, seemed to make sense as a launching point. While the school’s Business Innovation Center is in Edmond, Francis Tuttle did not previously have a campus in Edmond. However, it represents a significant part of the school’s district.
Another factor was Edmond’s ever-growing population.
An Edmond resident herself, Keylon said she is excited about what the new campus is bringing to the area.
“[Edmond] has a small town feel with big town access. When you experience the community, the City of Edmond, Chamber of Commerce, Visit Edmond and Edmond Economic Development Authority are all working toward the same goals…making Edmond the best place to live and work. Now, as we add our newest location, I can’t be more excited to join forces with all these groups and also UCO and OCU. I am proud that Francis Tuttle is making a bigger footprint in Edmond and we are adding to the overall quality of life.”
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About Thomas Berger
Thomas Berger is the owner of Ciskus Creative, an Edmond-based creative agency focused on creating marketing content for small and medium-sized businesses.
Prior to starting his own company, he worked as the communications/marketing specialist for an Oklahoma City-based office technology company. Former to coming to the Oklahoma City area, he had worked as a career journalist for more than a decade — initially reporting for several newspapers in western North Carolina and northeastern Oklahoma and later as a multimedia journalist for KJRH Channel 2 in Tulsa.
Thomas has lived in Edmond with his wife Alison since 2013. He has a passion for traveling, photography, learning languages, landscaping and coffee roasting. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Western Carolina University.