Advanced Technology Center at CLC holds grand opening

One group of people gathered around a demonstration of a robot performing welding techniques — without actual heat for safety purposes — as Johnny Rzymowski of Waukegan guided the robot with a tool that looked like something from a video game.

“It’s pretty cool,” said elementary school student Elijah Cheng. “It looks harder than a video game.”

Another cluster of individuals watched Dave Wooten, the industrial technology department chair at the College of Lake County, demonstrate how students work with different types of engines to prepare for well-paying, high-demand jobs.

“This is impressive,” said Carol Gibbs, an educator herself. “This will empower people to look for a career.”

The industrial technology room is designed to look like a modern factory floor.

Gibbs and Cheng were among the more than 440 people who got a firsthand look at the College of Lake County’s new $34 million Advanced Technology Center during its grand opening Saturday in Gurnee, learning about programs in industrial technology and welding.

While students began attending class there in August, Anne O’Connell, the school’s director of public relations and marketing, said Saturday was the first opportunity for the public to get a look at the facility preparing students for a career in 21st-century manufacturing.

Though Rzymowski, an adjunct faculty member and a welding supervisor with S & C Welding in Chicago, was programming the robotic arm to weld, he said what looked like a video game controller is much more than that. Nevertheless, the procedure will be familiar to young people, he said.

“I use this to get the robotic arm to do what I want,” he said. “I tell it what to do step by step. I would say students would be comfortable with this because of video games. It will help them learn to program.”

The atrium at the College of Lake County’s Advanced Technology Center is decorated for its grand opening.

Among the people watching Rzymowski operate the welding robot was Karen Robinette, a human relations consultant from Fox Lake. She said the new CLC facility offers an opportunity for people to find manufacturing jobs.

“They go to the College of Lake County to learn these skills,” she said. “Employers can count on them being ready to go to work.”

Amy Jo Pappa, an inside sales manager with Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials — Engineering Solutions in Libertyville, said the Advanced Technology Center is a good feeding ground to find workers at the company.

“Students are well-prepared at CLC,” Pappa said. “We can hire people from here and develop them for our own shop.”

Wooten, who was displaying items used in the Advanced Technology Department which help students learn to become machinists among other jobs, said the skills students learn train them for high-demand, well-paying jobs in manufacturing. The large room is designed to look like a modern factory.

“This is where they make things that go into the supply chain,” Wooten said, referring to the motors and other accessories which are used. “This is very high-demand.”

Gibbs said she was impressed with the layout of the industrial technology room. She likes the open feeling.

“Look at all the glass,” she said. “It feels really comfortable in here.”

Victor Cheng, Elijah’s father and a literature teacher at Waukegan High School, said while teenagers do not always see the relevance of literature as they study it, when they learn industrial technology, they have an immediate reaction.

“They make something, and they see what they make,” he said. “They feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Along with demonstrations in both the industrial technology and welding sections of the building, the large entry foyer was abuzz with information tables, crowds learning more about the center and a live radio broadcast.

“This is an open house to show the Advanced Technology Center to the public,” Richard Ammon, the school’s interim vice president of education and chief academic officer, said.

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