Thursday, March 8, 2012

Not in Kansas Anymore but Still Daydreaming about the Technology

By Ranada Robinson, Senior Research Associate.

Last week, my colleague Christa Tinsley Spaht and I traveled to the “Heart of America” to tour various sites that are major assets for the Joplin region, which encompasses seven counties in three states. The region, which is the focus of our most recent regional economic development strategy process,  has several impressive assets, but the one that made me feel like an excited school kid was the Kansas Technology Center (KTC) at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS. Although I’m in community and economic development now, I have had a passion for math and a little science since I was a small, so hearing about and seeing new technologies and students learning software such as AutoCAD made me take a welcomed trip down memory lane.

KTC opened in 1997 after three years of construction and is 278,700 square feet and holds about $26 million of equipment that students utilize. The state-of-the-art building holds space for over 15 undergraduate and graduate program areas in five departments:  automotive technology, construction management and construction engineering technologies, engineering technology, graphics and imaging technology, and technology and workforce learning.

Dr. Bruce Dallman, the Dean of the College of Technology, showed us several parts of the building along with the various labs, noting, of course, that it would take much much longer than we had to see everything KTC has to offer. We learned a little about plastic engineering and saw the many machines students use to learn how to produce various types of plastics, from hard materials that are used for piping and industrial products to everyday materials that are used to make water bottles. We saw the automotive technology labs that featured cars that students learn to diagnose and test and repair as well as the diesel labs. We also learned about technology that allows for magazines to place reader-specific ads in their publications instead of including the same ads for all copies, which is the norm currently, without slowing production. I felt smarter just by walking through the building, so I’m sure students who attend classes in KTC are really exposed to the newest technologies and developing products that people everywhere need or want.

One of the most impressive qualities of KTC is its established pipeline from classroom to workforce. The center has several partnerships with companies around the world because companies know that the graduates are well-equipped to join the workforce and become assets to their new employers. KTC is key tool for economic developers seeking to attract or assist in growing companies that need access to the type of training and apprenticeship programs that KTC offers.