After five years of discussions, planning and proposals, the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center is ready for construction following a groundbreaking ceremony on July 10.
“The Bulk Solids Innovation Center is a prime example of how Kansas State University continues to move toward its goal of being a Top 50 research institution by the year 2025, and how we continue to connect education with industry,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of Kansas State University Salina, in her remarks to a crowd filled with other partners in the project, state and local representatives, university faculty and alumni, and community supporters.
“K-State is proud to be a part of this synergetic project and highly values the opportunity to work closely with other members of the Salina community,” Fitzsimmons said.
The innovation center, a 13,000-square-foot facility being built in north Salina, is the collaborative effort of Kansas State University, the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, Salina Economic Development Corporation, U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the state of Kansas and the city of Salina. The university will be the key tenant in the building while two local companies, Coperion K-Tron Salina Inc. and Vortex Valves, will supplement the facility by serving as anchor occupants. Ron Fowles Construction, Manhattan, is building the facility and expects it to be ready for occupancy in April 2015.
The center will be the only one of its kind in North America, researching the science and understanding of bulk solids materials handling. Bulk solids are loose, dry commodities, such as pellets, granules, powder, grain and recycled plastics, that account for more than 80 percent of items transported around the world. The facility will not only complement the College of Agriculture’s Bulk Solids and Particle Technology Lab and program housed on the Manhattan campus, but also several engineering technology programs at K-State Salina.
“Students majoring in mechanical engineering technology, electronic and computer engineering technology, and computer systems technology will have the opportunity to be a part of a variety of applied research projects focused on the mechanics of material movement and the development of new processes and equipment,” said Mark Jackson, head of the engineering technology department at K-State Salina. “This center will help redesign our degree programs, embracing project- and product-based learning concepts. Graduates will then be immediately productive in the processing industries associated with bulk solids.”
Major companies like Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Procter and Gamble, and Cargill have shown interest in contracting with the university, once the facility is built, for various research projects problem-solving their bulk solids processing. As the associate dean of research and engagement at K-State Salina, Kurt Barnhart says one of his first roles in the project is to recruit key talent to the facility to ensure these business partnerships with the university will be successful.
“This center is the next major step in defining K-State Salina in the field of research,” Barnhart said. “Expert faculty and committed students will be paramount to making us distinctive locally and internationally, and in turn will attract world-class industries and sponsored-research funding, which will result in a positive economic impact on this area.”
Once the Bulk Solids Innovation Center has been finished, the research and education oversight committee for the project plans to have an opening ceremony that will include an international conference.