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Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
A model of the Baltimore Bridge, built by Ivy Tech students, is used to measure the responses to different load levels.

Ivy Tech’s bridge to opportunity

Technology center offers wide variety of classes

Andy Bell, program chair of the Engineering Technology department, holds a measurement device used in classes.
Objects made with computer-aided design and printed with a 3-D printer allow Ivy Tech students to use their creativity and imagination in projects.

Things are a little quiet this time of year at Ivy Tech’s technology center as the campus gears up for students’ return to classes after winter break.

But for most of the semester, the 107,000-square-foot building buzzes with students studying construction, design, energy, agriculture, computer science, engineering, automotive, machinery, aviation and more.

The School of Technology, lead by Dean John L. Walter, has students studying technology in many forms – including computers, electronics, automotive and building construction management.

“There are so many opportunities here,” Walter said. “At Ivy Tech, we do what a lot of people just talk about – and we do it well. We lecture, but then we take the hands-on approach.”

The School of Applied Science and Engineering Technology – the other group of learners who share the dozens of classrooms and labs – offers courses in chemical and biotechnology, electrical engineering and nanotechnology, as well as degrees in fast-growing industries like agriculture, computer science and engineering.

For most of the technology courses, students split their time between lectures and labs, said Andrew Bell, program chair for the college’s Engineering Technology department.

Walter said the campus has all bells and whistles – literally, there’s a machine that makes whistles – but still the college faces some of the same challenges others do when it comes to getting students in the classroom.

“We have more programs, more possibilities and more opportunities here, … but we still have empty seats,” he said. “We want every seat to be filled.”

Seeing is believing

Sometimes, understanding a complex topic takes a visual experience, Bell explained.

Students studying building construction management in Fort Wayne aren’t likely to experience an earthquake – but a desktop shake table can help students understand how buildings respond.

A computer connected to the device allows students to download wave movements recorded from real-life earthquakes across the world and apply them to the earthquake simulator.

From there, he said, students can study topics like seismic analysis, a calculation of the response of a structure to earthquakes, or structural analysis, the effect a load has on physical structures, and apply those concepts to building projects.

Fun in learning

In addition to developing students’ practical and technical skills in masonry, automotive and HVAC systems, there’s also a time for fun.Take, for example, the 3-D printer.In their first few semesters at Ivy Tech, students learn to use a CAD – computer-aided design – program that translates ideas into designs and designs into products.

Once a design is in the CAD program, students then take their creation to the Rapid Prototype, a 3-D printer, Walter said.

“We’ve seen all kinds of projects coming out of this machine,” he said, pointing to pieces and parts that had been created by students. “As far as what students can create, the list is endless.”

Understanding forces

Likewise, a model of the Baltimore Bridge, built by Ivy Tech students, helps classes understand how everyday structures react to various load levels.

Students would monitor the construction of the bridge as different amounts of pressure and tension are added to the model.

It’s a similar process to how architects would study building construction or construction workers might study surface tension of roads and bridges, Bell said.

Under pressure

Students also have access to Rockwell hardness testers – devices used to measure the hardness of an object by factoring in how much of an indentation remains in the metal after it is pressed by the device.

In class, students are asked to formulate experiments on which metals can withstand the most pressure – the same way they might in a job someday, Bell said.

Whistling its own tune

Another favorite is a CNC Swiss Machine, which can be used to carve objects out of metal.

With the push of a few buttons – and a pre-written program – Ivy Tech’s machine turns a metal rod into dozens of bosun’s whistles, also commonly called boatswain’s calls or pipes, complete with “Ivy Tech” etched into the side.

It’s a practical, but fun, way to teach students about cutter speeds and processing metal, Walter said.