The Roundhouse Foundation has awarded more than $500,000 to Oregon State University

May 6, 2021 | By Michelle Klampe

The Roundhouse Foundation has awarded more than $500,000 to Oregon State University to support students conducting research and exploring careers in marine technology, innovation and entrepreneurship at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

The gift, secured through the OSU Foundation, will expand and enhance educational activities for K-12 and undergraduate college students in the Innovation Lab, a 2,700-square-foot workshop and studio for designing, fabricating and testing scientific instruments and technology critical to ocean- and coastal-based research.

The state-of-the-art lab is a key component of the new Gladys Valley Marine Studies Building on the Hatfield campus in Newport. It is also a linchpin in a broader effort to bolster economic and workforce development on the Oregon Coast.

“There is no other space like this on the Oregon Coast,” said Jack Barth, executive director of OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative. “It is an important educational and community resource, and this gift allows us to expand its reach, particularly to rural and underserved students.”

The mission of the Marine Studies Initiative is to amplify marine research, education and outreach and engagement efforts across all of OSU and from Corvallis to the coast. The Gladys Valley Marine Studies Building, completed last year, supports that mission and houses offices, laboratories, classrooms, an auditorium and more.

The Innovation Lab is a cornerstone of the new building. It will feature design and fabrication equipment, including 3D printers; Computer Numerical Control, or CNC, cutters; welders, lathes and more.

“This lab space provides our researchers, and the coastal community, a facility with the tools, equipment and expertise needed to carry out their work,” said Bob Cowen, director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center. “If a researcher is creating some kind of sensor to put in the ocean, and they need a circuit board, but don’t have the skills or tools to develop it, we’ll have someone who could help them or teach them.

“Beyond that, we hope to generate opportunities for students, including undergraduate and graduate students, to be exposed to potential career paths and help them build technical skills. It’s an important link in the education and workforce training pathway.”

The three-year Roundhouse Foundation grant will enhance those efforts. The Roundhouse Foundation is a private, family foundation based in Sisters, Oregon, which supports community organizations that strengthen and celebrate rural Oregon communities, with a focus on four areas: arts and culture, environmental stewardship, education and social services.

“Oregon State, Hatfield and the Marine Studies program are key elements in the expansion and enhancement of rural coastal economic resilience and ocean health,” said Erin Borla, the foundation’s executive director and trustee. “The intersection of science, innovation, creativity and access to equipment will enable students to try projects they may have only dreamed about and help inspire the next generation of ocean experts.”

The foundation’s gift will be used in part to support visits to the lab by high school students and their teachers, including teacher preparation time, materials and transportation.

Funds also will support experiential learning opportunities for college undergraduates. These students will receive scholarships and have the opportunity to serve as mentors in the lab, both for undergraduate peers and for K-12 students. Paid summer internships for graduate and undergraduate college students also will be offered.

“We wanted to make it accessible to K-12 students, but we didn’t know how to support it,” Barth said. “We also wanted to be able to expose undergraduate college students to career and research opportunities, and this fabulous gift helps us do that.”

Innovation Lab programs could be launched in fall 2021 if pandemic conditions permit. A search is underway to hire a lab manager to oversee educational and administrative operations, Cowen said.

“The OSU Foundation is grateful for the Roundhouse Foundation’s investment in OSU’s world-class marine studies program,” said Shawn L. Scoville, president and CEO of the OSU Foundation. “This gift demonstrates the incredible impact that donor support can have on the world’s most pressing challenges, enhancing innovative research and expanding access to life-changing experiential learning opportunities.”

The Innovation Lab is also supported by a three-year U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to Hatfield Marine Science Center that will focus on economic and workforce development opportunities on the Oregon Coast. A gift from the M.J. Murdock Trust is being used to set up and outfit the lab with the needed equipment and machinery.

Construction of the Gladys Valley Marine Studies Building was supported by a lead grant from the Wayne & Gladys Valley Foundation and gifts from individual donors, with private funds matched by capital construction bonds authorized by the Oregon Legislature. Faculty and staff began moving into labs and offices last fall, though many continue to work from home due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.