A group of people gathered around a demonstration of a robot performing welding techniques — without actual heat for safety purposes — while Johnny Rzimowski of Waukegan guided the robot with a tool that looked like something out of a video game.
“It’s very cool,” said elementary school student Elijah Cheng. “Looks harder than a video game.”
Another group of people watched as Dave Wooten, head of the industrial technology department at the College of Lake County, demonstrated how students work with different types of engines to prepare for well-paying and in-demand jobs.
“It’s impressive,” said Carol Gibbs, an educator herself. “It will give people an opportunity 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 Center for Advanced Technology during its grand opening Saturday in Gurney, learning about industrial engineering programs. technologies and welding.
While students began attending class there in August, Ann O’Connell, the school’s director of public relations and marketing, said Saturday was the public’s first opportunity to tour the facility preparing students for careers in 21st-century manufacturing.
Although Rzymowski, an adjunct faculty member and welding supervisor at S & C Welding in Chicago, programmed the robotic arm to weld, he said what looks like a video game controller is much more than that. However, the procedure will be familiar to young people, he said.
“I use that to make the robotic arm do what I want it to do,” he said. “I tell him what to do step by step. I would say that students would feel comfortable with it because of the video games. This will help them learn to program.
Among the people watching Rzymowski work with the welding robot was Karen Robinette, a human relations consultant from Fox Lake. She said CLC’s new facility offers an opportunity for people to find jobs in manufacturing.
“They go to the College of Lake County to learn those skills,” she said. “Employers can count on them being ready to go to work.”
Amy Jo Papa, inside sales manager at Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials — Engineering Solutions in Libertyville, said the Advanced Technology Center is a good base for finding workers at the company.
“Students are well prepared at CLC,” Papa said. “We can hire people from here and develop them for our own store.”
Wooten, who was showing items used in the advanced technology department to help students learn to become machinists among other trades, said the skills the students learn train them for high-demand, well-paying manufacturing jobs. 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 engines and other accessories that are used. “It’s a very high demand.”
Gibbs said she was impressed with the layout of the industrial technology room. He likes the feeling of openness.
“Look at all the glass,” she said. “I 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 as they study it, when they learn industrial technology, they respond immediately.
“They do something and see what they do,” he said. “They feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Along with demonstrations in both the industrial technology and welding sections of the building, the grand entrance lobby was bustling with information tables, crowds of people 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 for education and chief academic officer.