NCC Celebrates Newly Redesigned Hartzell Advanced Technology Hall
It was a ribbon-cutting, but without a ribbon and without scissors. Instead, the sparks flew as Northampton Community College (NCC) President Mark Erickson sliced through a custom CAD-designed aluminum plate in the shape of a ribbon bearing NCC's logo with a plasma torch, a tool that generates a plasma stream at temperatures up to 30,000 degrees.
According to the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley grew by 4.1 percent from 2013 - 2014 and now ranks 64th among 351 major U.S. metropolitan areas tracking this subcategory.
In pace with this growing demand for skilled employees in manufacturing and technology, NCC has upgraded its technology building and programs. The high-tech ribbon cutting, on November 10, celebrated NCC's leadership in this new manufacturing and technology era, as exemplified by the newly redesigned Eugene R. Hartzell Center for Advanced Technology, at the Gates Center of the Bethlehem Campus.
Guests at the ribbon-cutting, including local business, government and technology leaders, viewed demonstrations of virtual reality welding stations, pick-and-place robots, CNC plasma cutters, twelve metallurgy labs, new instrumentation, mechanical systems, motors, controls, photovoltaic energy, heating and refrigeration, electronics, wiring, programmable logic controllers, computer-aided design, and 3-D printing.
The new equipment was purchased through a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, shared by two other community colleges in partnership with many regional companies.
The refreshed technology program at NCC includes six different programs: CAD/CAM additive manufacturing and advanced digital manufacturing; HVAC - environmental controls; electrical construction technology; electronics; welding technology; and electromechanical, instrumentation and process control.
Some programs enable students to move seamlessly from specialized diplomas to certificates and associate degrees. For example, a welding student can earn an 18-credit special diploma, then a certificate and finally an associate degree, from which he or she could transfer to a four-year college, perhaps stopping to work in their fields along the way. Students may be interested in enrolling in a new bachelor's degree program in technical leadership offered in conjunction with Bloomsburg University.
The labs are being used by students in the specialties mentioned above as well as for customized training for employees of local manufacturing firms.
Remarks by speakers focused on the transformative benefits the College and wider community will reap from the new technology center. Dr. Mark Erickson, NCC president, described NCC as a college of the community. "This means that we are responsive to employers telling us that they need new talent," he said.
Dr. Carolyn Bortz, NCC vice president for academic affairs, described the introduction of instrumentation process control into the NCC set of technology programs. "This program makes NCC the only two-year college east of the Mississippi to offer this degree," she said. She also talked about "flipped" classrooms," where students are given technology-enriched homework assignments that they can then use in a face-to-face class.
Dakota Budnik, a 2012 graduate of the welding specialized diploma program and a welding instructor at the College, expressed his admiration for the new advanced technology center. "Many of the nation's greatest welders will come out of the NCC program," he said.
Max Williams, of Williams Electric, a partner in NCC's endeavor, said that employers can hire graduates of NCC's technology programs with confidence. He pointed out the 250,000-person shortage of technologically skilled people in the workforce throughout the United States.
Christopher Gaylo, NCC director of industrial technologies and other staff members, led tours of the new facility in operation, even giving visitors the chance to try out some of the technology themselves.
"Ninety percent of NCC graduates stay in our community, meaning that the College is the primary institution for training the area's workforce" Dr. Erickson said.
Just as sparks rocketed from the welding torch onto the welding lab floor, so will the new Northampton Community College Hartzell Center for Advanced Technology blaze paths for students and businesses throughout our region and beyond.
View more photos from the ribbon-cutting in this gallery.