A group of people gathered around a demonstration of a robot performing welding techniques — without actual heat for safety reasons — as Waukegan’s Johnny Rzymowski guided the robot with a tool that looked like something out of a video game.
“It’s pretty cool,” said elementary school student Elijah Cheng. “It looks harder than a video game.”
Another group of individuals watched as Dave Wooten, Chair of the College of Lake County’s Department of Industrial Technology, demonstrated how students work with different types of engines to prepare for high-paying, high-demand jobs.
“It’s impressive,” said Carol Gibbs, herself an educator. “This will empower people to look for a career.”
Gibbs and Cheng were among more than 440 people who got a first-hand look at the College of Lake County’s new $34 million Advanced Technology Center during its opening Saturday in Gurnee and learned about industrial technology and welding programs .
While students attended classes 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 glimpse of the facility, which is preparing students for a career in ready for 21st century manufacturing.
Although Rzymowski, an associate professor and welding manager at S&C Welding in Chicago, programmed the robotic arm to weld, he said what looked like a video game controller was much more than that. Even so, the process will be familiar to young people, he said.
“I use that to get the robotic arm to do what I want,” he said. “I tell him step by step what to do. I would say that the students would feel comfortable with it because of video games. It will help them learn to code.”
Among those watching Rzymowski operate the welding robot was Karen Robinette, a Fox Lake human relations consultant. She said the new CLC facility will provide opportunities for people to find manufacturing jobs.
“They go to the College of Lake County to learn those skills,” she said. “Employers can rest easy knowing they’re ready to go to work.”
Amy Jo Pappa, inside sales manager at Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials – Engineering Solutions in Libertyville, said the Advanced Technology Center is a good breeding ground for finding employees at the company.
“Students are well prepared at the CLC,” said Pappa. “From here we can hire people and develop for our own shop.”
Wooten, who displayed items used in the advanced technology department that help students become machinists, among other things, said the skills the students learn prepare them for high-demand, well-paying jobs in manufacturing . The large room is designed like a modern factory.
“Here they make things that go into the supply chain,” Wooten said, referring to the engines and other accessories that are used. “That’s a very high demand.”
Gibbs said she was impressed with the design of the industrial engineering room. She likes the open feeling.
“Look at the whole jar,” she said. “You feel really comfortable here.”
Victor Cheng, Elijah’s father and a literature teacher at Waukegan High School, said that while teenagers don’t always see the relevance of literature while studying it, when they learn industrial technology, they have an immediate reaction.
“They make something and they see what they make,” he said. “You feel a sense of accomplishment.”
In addition to demonstrations in both the industrial technology and welding departments of the building, the grand entrance foyer was filled with information boards, crowds learning more about the center and a live radio broadcast.
“This is an open house to showcase the Advanced Technology Center to the public,” said Richard Ammon, the school’s interim vice president of education and chief academic officer.