Draper Laboratory opens at USF Tampa

10/26/09 Concetta DeLuco
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The University of South Florida, Tampa is one new home of Draper Laboratory. With some of Hillsborough County’s elite in attendance, a red ribbon ceremony was held this afternoon to welcome Draper to their new location on the USF Campus.

Draper Laboratory was welcomed by USF President Judy Genshaft today at its ceremonial opening. At its new location, Draper will be conducting bio-medical research that Genshaft described as a perfect fit for the university.

Among the many Hillsborough dignitaries in attendance was County Commissioner Ken Hagans. He also gave Draper a warm welcome to the Tampa Bay region, but for reasons different than Genshaft.

The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc is an independent, not-for-profit research and development organization. It develops advanced space, and energy technology as well military tactical systems, special operations and makes weapons. According to their website, more than 90 percent of their work is government-funded, from agencies such as by the US Navy, Air Force, and NASA, to name a few. Draper’s Len Polizzotto said that each of their several locations typically specializes in one field. At USF, it will be bio-engineering.

Draper also opened a second location in St.Petersburg earlier today, on 16th Steet North. The St. Pete lab, Polizzotto said, is a multi-chip manufacturing facility.

The main facility is in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Draper Laboratories got its start at the Instrumentation Laboratory of MIT in the late 1960’s. In 1973, however, Draper was forced out of MIT. Polizzotto said Draper’s weaponry manufacturing stirred protests from faculty, students and anti-Vietnam War demonstrators. Polizzotto said even though Draper does make weapons, USF will not face a similar situation.

However, USF’s President Judy Genshaft said the university is open to working with Draper in their different fields of research and development beyond healthcare.

WMNF asked Genshaft how USF would deal with a similar situation, if Draper did expand their research into different areas such as weaponry and it sparked controversy in light of the ongoing war in Iraq and Afghanistan. She said there would not be a similar situation.

Financing the project was a joint effort by the Draper Laboratory, USF, Hillsborough County and the State of Florida. Draper’s Polizzotto said only half the project has been completed so far, with 3 million spent.

The new USF location is situated at 3802 Spectrum Blvd.

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