Business partners see value in new lab technology
New 3-D printers and scanners, a humanoid robot, a wind turbine simulator, an alternative energy training center and sensor calibration stations for pressure, temperature and strain are among the new high-tech tools that drew an excited crowd Tuesday evening at the unveiling of Palm Beach State College’s newly upgraded laboratory for the Engineering Technology and Electrical Power Technology programs. The lab, located in the BioScience Technology Complex on the Palm Beach Gardens campus, gives students the opportunity to work with the latest equipment used in manufacturing, instrumentation and control, 3-D modeling, drafting, prototyping and other disciplines. This hands-on experience will build the skills needed by local energy, aerospace, manufacturing and engineering companies.
Executives from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Florida Power & Light, Pratt & Whitney, SolarTech Universal, Palm Beach County Water Utilities, South Florida Water Management District, Power Systems Manufacturing and more gathered to take a close-up look. All serve on the programs’ Business Partnership Council, providing volunteer support in numerous ways, including curriculum guidance, internships and, in many cases, jobs.
Anthony Hartzheim, program manager at Agilis Engineering, has served on the council for several years and liked what he saw. “All the work that the College has done in the lab, to get all these capabilities to train the students and get them accustomed to the real world—it’s impressive.”
Sharon Long concurs. The senior engineer at Florida Turbine Technologies in Jupiter has been on the council since its inception. “It has been a tremendous success with many very qualified graduates who have found positions in the local industry.”
The Electrical Power Technology Associate in Science degree program began in 2008 and is going strong. One reason may be word-of-mouth since the program has 100 percent job placement. Graduates are getting jobs, for example, testing new helicopter designs for Sikorsky Aircraft or working as instrumentation technicians for FPL and Wheelabrator Technologies.
The Engineering Technology A.S. degree program, which started this fall, was created after business partners expressed a need for technicians to support engineering functions in advanced manufacturing, robotics, 3-D modeling, drafting and electronics. Already, employers are posting paid internship opportunities for students in the program.
Students in both programs share the lab, and the cross-pollination of ideas benefits everyone. “I’m especially excited about the 3-D printers,” said Pedro Paulo Borba, a student in the Electrical Power Technology program who is currently interning at Sikorsky Aircraft. “I keep thinking about what I can prototype that I couldn’t before, what kind of projects can I attempt with this; it’s really a great tool.”
Before the ribbon was cut at the lab’s door, Professor Oleg Andric, Electrical Power Technology department chair, thanked the business partners for their support. “It’s all about education and finding the right skills for our students and for employers as well. We really appreciate everything you are doing for the College and the students.”
The new lab equipment was made possible through federal support from the National Science Foundation and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education grant as well as College funds.