Classes are underway at Florida Polytechnic University. It's the second academic year for the state's newest university -- a STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math college -- and the campus is growing quickly.
Students gathered recently in the commons area inside Florida Poly's iconic Innovation, Science and Technology building, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. Some were playing chess, others playing video games or scribbling math equations on a white board.
It's a lot busier this year. Five hundred new students enrolled for the school's second year in operation, doubling the student population. Twenty-two faculty members were added, bringing that total to 36.
That increase is also driving new construction, says Dr. Steve Warner, Director of Student Affairs. It became apparent, he says, that the students needed somewhere to play.
"These students, when they came in last year," Warner says, "they were playing soccer and rugby at 10:30 or 11 o'clock at night on one of our open fields out here under the parking lot lights. So we knew there was a need for this, and we made it our priority."
They're building a full-sized soccer field that can also be used for lacrosse, flag football, and another sport that's not as common.
"We can do Quidditich, a Harry Potter game," Warner explains, "so it's really geared to our students."
A second student dormitory is under construction; and an outdoor pool and fitness center are in the plans.
Florida Polytechnic is not yet accredited, making the offer of substantial scholarships are key part of its recruiting strategy. The inaugural class last year all received full tuition scholarships. This year, Warner says everyone got some sort of financial aid, with tuition, room and board covered for the highest achievers.
"We really are looking at that top level," says Warner. "That's who we're trying to attract with full scholarships"
Warner called accreditation the number one priority for the university. He said the application had been submitted last December, but the accrediting agency will likely wait to make another move until after the first students have graduated next spring.