Founded in 2012, The STEAM Factory at Ohio State is a grassroots initiative that facilitates collaborative research, teaching and outreach. This diverse faculty network has grown from 10 founding members to over 120 faculty across 69 departments and 17 colleges/institutes at OSU, with an ecosystem of more than 30 partners across the city of Columbus. Sathya Gopalakrishnan, AEDE assistant professor, is one of the founding members of The STEAM Factory and an active participant in its strategic growth and outreach efforts.
The STEAM Factory helps to bridge the gap between Ohio State and the Columbus community through research-based outreach that is accessible, approachable and which combines formal and informal learning.
Located in a 3,600 square foot space in the Franklinton neighborhood, a hub for innovation in arts, technology and creativity, which is experiencing rapid urban revitalization, The STEAM Factory has had a presence at over 80 outreach events, including Franklinton Fridays and the Farmers Market at 400 West Rich Street, TEDx Columbus, the National Science Writers Conference, COSI after Dark, and the Go West Festival, among others. Through this work, the group has taken Ohio State research to over 7,000 members of the Columbus community. Fifty Ohio State faculty from more than 25 academic disciplines have been involved in The Steam Factory’s outreach efforts.
The STEAM Factory also organizes monthly salon-style interdisciplinary colloquia for Ohio State faculty, called STEAM Exchanges, to facilitate collegial discourse across disciplines. Presenters and attendees have the opportunity to learn about the work of academics in other disciplines, spark ideas for their own work, discover methods and techniques used by other disciplines, and develop new interdisciplinary collaborations.
Over three years, STEAM Exchange seminars have featured 49 presenters from more than 25 disciplines and were attended by faculty representing over 60 disciplines. Interactions at these exchanges and other research activities at The STEAM Factory have led to over 10 new collaborative projects.
The most recent STEAM Exchange, moderated by Gopalakrishnan, focused on the topic of Food. Leah Bevis, a recently hired assistant professor in the department, was a featured speaker at the event along with faculty from Ohio State’s Department of History and the Department of Food Science and Technology. Bevis presented her recent research with Cornell University’s Christopher B. Barrett: “Close to the Edge: Do small, spikey farm plots grow the most food?”
At the Exchange, 28 Ohio State faculty from more than a dozen departments were in attendance. Of particular interest, 40 percent of those in attendance identified as recently hired faculty and 50 percent of this group noted that they had heard about The STEAM Factory before joining the university.
The STEAM Factory is supported by seven colleges and offices within Ohio State, including the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Images: Leah Bevis presents at the October 2016 STEAM Exchange. Credit: The STEAM Factory.