By Doing, Learning: At Pittsburg State, education strengthens Kansas manufacturing

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Story by Amber Fraley

It is fitting that in its 20th anniversary year, the Kansas Technology Center at Pittsburg State University will be a featured part of the Global Manufacturing Summit in Pittsburg on April 6.

“I’ve been here 30 years, but the biggest change to this campus has been the opening of the technology center in ’97,” says Ron Womble, director of media relations at Pitt State. “This was the first time we were able to bring together all of our technology programs under one roof.”

studentsThe Kansas Technology Center, or KTC, was built as an academic center with extensive work space and laboratories where Pitt State tech students can learn the latest in engineering and manufacturing techniques on state-of-the-art equipment. At present, the building houses $16 million in technical equipment and manufacturing machinery, funded primarily by partner corporations in the state of Kansas. In return for their generosity, partner companies tap student talent for solutions to their real-world problems. “We have a very close relationship with area businesses and industries,” says Womble. “It’s not at all unusual for a business to come to the area [of the Tech Center] that’s appropriate for them with a problem and ask for some possible solutions. That sort of thing happens all the time.”

Dr. Tim Dawsey, dean of the College of Technology, agrees. “A key component of the success of our college and the KTC is the tremendous support we get from our industry partners. We wouldn’t have this level of programming without the various donations of time, money and equipment from generous donors from several facets of the technology world. Those industry partners support us because they know that our programs are preparing the students who will soon make up their workforce, and we couldn’t be more appreciative for that support.”

student with pittsburg state water bottleThe Kansas Technology Center is home to the College of Technology, which includes programs such as engineering technology, automotive technology, graphics and imaging, the School of Construction, and technology and workforce learning.

Womble says this grouping of disciplines expands educational opportunities. For example, the engineering technology class can go beyond its traditional classroom setting to combine hands-on technology applications with its academic lessons.

Because all the programs taught in the technology center are hands-on, the building itself was constructed to act as a dynamic space that can adapt as its partner-industries advance. Interior walls in the Tech Center can be moved or removed as necessary. The building can accommodate a fully-loaded forklift or a large truck to move equipment in and out as needed. A ten-foot-by-ten-foot utility tunnel runs under the building, and false ceiling panels can accommodate conduit and ductwork above.

“It really is a building that works,” says Womble. He adds that the structure and its use reflect the school’s motto: “By doing, learn.”

And that collaborative approach carries over throughout the campus.

pittsburg state student“One of the most impressive aspects of this College of Technology and the Kansas Technology Center is how the various areas and programs interact with one another under one roof. From construction management and automotive technology to engineering technology and wood tech, the KTC features a wide variety of technologies that all prepare our students to excel in the workforce,” says Dawsey.

The synergy between the students, the Technology Center and area manufacturing is a key component to building business interests in Kansas.

“Manufacturing represents the largest industry sector within the Kansas Chamber, totaling approximately one-third of our entire organization’s membership,” says Kent Beisner, interim president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber. “We recognize that manufacturing is one of the most important keys to a strong Kansas economy. Working to build and diversify the manufacturing industry in Kansas is critical to the success of the Kansas economy.”

And it begins with a trained, educated workforce.

“The workforce needs highly skilled professionals, and our graduates are among the most highly skilled in the nation,” says Dawsey. “Our students are challenged every single day, and it’s hard work. But when they graduate from our programs, they are ready to make a significant professional impact on day one.”

 

The synergy between the students, the Technology Center and area manufacturing is a key component to building business interests in Kansas.

 student and teacher

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