July 28, 2017
by Laura Barton, The Tribune
Niagara College’s Welland campus celebrated the official grand opening of the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre Friday.
It’s been two years since construction began on the multi-million-dollar facility, and although students have already been studying hard and learning a lot within its walls, it is officially complete.
The innovation centre is a 15,000 square-foot facility with lab space for students to practice hands-on learning for the manufacturing industry while also providing small and medium-sized manufacturers with the ability to team up with the college for projects.
The centre was funded by the provincial government and Walker Industries Holdings Ltd., with investments of $4.2 million and $1.2 million respectively.
Niagara College president Dan Patterson said it’s important for post-secondary institutions to support manufacturers, both for the sake of the manufacturing companies and students hoping to get into that field.
“It’s not enough to simply keep up with the technological advances,” he said. “Rather we have to provide that space that applies research opportunities with industry and the tolerance that comes with exploring new ways to do things.”
Two of Niagara College’s students — one a current student and one a recent graduate — shared their experiences learning with Niagara College.
Daniela Cortes Aristizabal, a junior research assistant with the mechanical engineering technology program, said she’s confident when she graduates she’ll be prepared to go into the workforce with the skills she’s learned during her time of study.
Bob Benner, owner and president of Hamill Machine Company Inc., sang the praises of Niagara College’s students and facilities. He said he’s already worked with the college on three different projects for his business, which manufactures machines for the industrial sector and food and wine producers, and it is helping his business grow.
“When I come here, I’m just awe-inspired by the people and talent in this area,” he said during the ceremonies.
Patterson said in a post-ceremony interview that this is common among the industry partners. He said they feel comfortable coming to Niagara College with their projects and confident that the students will be able to help them.
During a quick tour of the facilities, dignitaries and guests got a glimpse of the work that is done in the lab, including 3D printing and building devices to help people like Benner with their companies. One device on display was the college’s heartnut cracker, which students built for Grimo Nut Nursery to help break apart the delicate heart-shaped nuts without breaking the shape.
St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley and Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa also praised the college for its work. Sousa noted how important it is to create these sorts of collaborations between students and the community moving forward.
The speakers also thanked the Walker family for its donation. The family didn’t share their thoughts with the crowd or media, but Susan McConnell, media advisor with the college, said Geordie Walker told the college the family sees their gift as a way to support students, local industries and contribute to the economic growth of Niagara.