SHELDON—An idea for improving the educational experience at Northwest Iowa Community College has been manufactured into a reality.
The Sheldon-based college celebrated the grand opening of its new Advanced Manufacturing Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
Event attendees were invited to tour the approximately 15,000-square-foot space, which is located inside Building C on NCC’s campus.
“What you’re standing in is part of really a long strategic plan here at NCC to update our advanced manufacturing programs and also get students at middle school, high school levels excited about hands-on careers, not just in manufacturing,” said Steve Waldstein, the college’s dean of applied technology.
The Advanced Manufacturing Center features labs and a classroom for computer-aided design, a manufacturing lab, a welding lab and the Idea Lab.
The Idea Lab is a new educational space that is a STEM-based interactive area for all programs at NCC to use.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
Waldstein explained the concept behind the Idea Lab.
“Have our students, have middle school, high school students come into this space and be able to dream,” he said.
Waldstein asked event attendees to remember back to when they were in elementary school.
“When you’re in elementary school, you’re always doing hands-on activities,” he said. “If you think about it, you can dream about anything.”
Waldstein noted sometimes students’ dreams and ideas go away based on all of the required courses they have to take as they reach higher and higher levels of education.
“We want students to walk in here and get excited again about dreaming about whatever they think they can design, they can build,” he said.
The Idea Lab features CNC — computer numerical control — mills and lathes, a CNC router, 3D printers, a water jet cutter, an injection molder and other pieces of technology.
“We have all sorts of things and equipment in here that can allow students to have those dreams and build it as well,” Waldstein said.
He said the Idea Lab is ready for instructors and students.
“We’re excited for the summer to have some middle school students come in for robotics camp,” Waldstein said.
“Some of our instructors in the math area, science area already want to come over here and bring their students for some hands-on learning,” he said.
Sheldon mayor Greg Geels congratulated NCC on the Advanced Manufacturing Center.
“It just is a wonderful facility,” he said. “What’s happening in that 15,000 square feet, what’s going to happen is collaboration and working together.
“Now whether you’re a college or a city or a family or any other entity, collaboration and working together is always a good thing,” he said. “Good things happen as a result of that.”
Geels noted the city of Sheldon is excited to see the growth NCC is experiencing.
“It’s great to see what you’re doing here,” he said. “We wish you the best as you open up this facility and put it to use.”
Waldstein thanked the college’s leadership — including president Alethea Stubbe — for its support of the Advanced Manufacturing Center.
“This is a very exciting day for us as we finally get to open this new space that we’ve been so excited about for several years,” Stubbe said.
Stubbe noted NCC will put the Advanced Manufacturing Center “to good use to fill that skilled workforce need.”
“Our staff are so excited about bringing their students in to learn about different things,” she said.
“It’s all new and bright,” she said. “It’s going to serve us well into the future because this is cutting edge.”
Waldstein expressed his gratitude to Doug Rodger, NCC’s director of physical facilities.
“I want to thank Doug Rodger and his maintenance team for all of the work that they’ve done in here, all of our subcontractors that have been in here remodeling the spaces here and in the welding lab,” he said.
“This is really a team effort of a lot of people,” he said. “Instructors want to know, ‘How soon can I get in here and start utilizing this space?’ That’s a wonderful thing.”