High Tech in Higher Education

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EICC_high_techOne of our goals at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges is to train the workforce not just for today, but for the future. That means being forward-thinking when it comes to our course offerings and our teaching facilities. Here are just a few examples of how we bring high tech to higher education.

Additive Manufacturing

girl student makes the item on the 3D printergirl student studying electronic device with a microprocessor

You’ve probably heard of 3-D printing. Have you ever wondered just exactly how it works, and what potential this innovation holds for everyday life?

“Seeing is believing,” says Brad McConnell, instructor at the EICC Blong Technology Center. That’s the ‘additive’ concept – adding a substance layer by layer. The process is similar to printing a document, but the output is a 3-D product. While seemingly more complicated, additive manufacturing can be much more efficient. There is less waste of material and it takes advantage of combining precise digital technology, he adds. “A complicated machine part that could take days to produce in the traditional way could be built in a matter of minutes with the 3-D layering method.” Many more materials are now being used in the process as well – not just plastics but stronger specialized fibers like Kevlar and even titanium steel.

Bigger things are on the horizon, says McConnell. There are large-scale machines that are capable of printing cars – in hours, not days. “They’re already doing that in space. NASA teamed with a company to develop methods to print tools in the International Space Station. Can you imagine how much it would cost to deliver supplies to astronauts? Now they can print a wrench in space,” he adds.

The process is so different than traditional manufacturing that it can sound far-fetched. But it is revolutionizing everything from auto parts production and ship repair, to surgical operations and space exploration. “Over 81 percent of U.S. manufacturers acknowledge that Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a key element in their future competitiveness,” explains Wayne Merrell, Ed.D, Assistant Grants Director at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges. “But only 14 percent believe they are adequately equipped today with the necessary technology and related expertise. That’s a huge opportunity for worker training,” he adds.

One that EICC is excited to be working on through a special 3DImPACT project. The project is designed to coordinate collaboration with business and industry to identify the necessary AM skills; develop multidisciplinary, project based coursework; and to create professional development training for community college and high school faculty.

Equipment at the Blong Technology Center is already allowing students to experiment with the applications of Additive Manufacturing – giving them direct hands-on experience with this technology.

Information Technology

High tech higher ed ITComputers have changed our world – they are present in virtually every facet of our lives and humming in the background of communications, entertainment, finance, government, health care, education . . . everywhere! Information Technology (IT) enables integration, communication, database management, complex computing and coordination of tasks and information.

Talking with employers about their hiring needs, what information technology looks like in their companies, and what it might look like in five years or ten keeps driving Eastern Iowa Community Colleges to constantly update their IT courses, equipment, and training methods.

EICC recently developed a two-track curriculum to stay on target for the future. A Program track and a Networking track allow students to find a niche that fits his or her unique skills and interests.

“It’s important for students to have a real passion for what they’re studying,” says Jim Noord, IT faculty member. “Most IT students are drawn to the program because they love new technology and the latest computer applications. That means we need to keep updating our learning labs and our curriculum so we can provide them with real experience with these new technologies.”

That includes everything from virtual reality, graphic interfaces, motion capture, computer forensics, and more. It also includes offering a wide variety of industry-recognized certifications in both Programming and Networking areas. “As a student in the IT program at EICC, I am able to get hands-on experience with real world applications including Phasespace motion capture system, Eon Reality Zspace, Occulus Rift, and 3D Systems Touch Stylus,“ says Uriah Brock, Student Lab Assistant at EICC.

EON Innovation Academy

Eastern Iowa Community Colleges has partnered with EON Reality, the world leader in virtual and augmented reality training, to bring the EON INNOVATION ACADEMY to the Quad Cities. In this fast-track program, students receive 11 months of training, including seven months working on real-life projects in different market segments – all happening in a new advanced technology lab located in downtown Davenport, Iowa. The first class of students started
this January.

“Virtual/Augmented Reality is one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy,” explains Joshua Drake, VR Training Initiatives Project Manager for EICC. Virtual Reality and Interactive 3D allow users to experience and evaluate projects, buildings, equipment, and experiment with a variety of scenarios, options, and locations in a safe and controlled setting. “This helps not only to visualize opportunities, but also to engineer improvements,” he notes. Doing so in virtual reality also saves on costs since actual models or structures do not need to be built. It is an effective tool for education and training, as well.

One of only four in the country, the EON Academy teaches the skills needed to create Virtual and Augmented Reality applications for many industries. This includes architecture and product visualization, game creation, multimedia design, education, and broadcast media. The program develops knowledge, skills, and experience in 3D applications and programming for interactive products – preparing students for success in the professional market.

For more information on these programs, visit eicc.edu/programs. You can explore degree requirements, class schedules, registration information, and more.

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