In its commitment to building a pipeline of talent for the digital age, Mohawk College hasn’t stopped at re-imagining all of its laboratories, tackling strategic industry partnerships and installing the latest technologies from cybersecurity to augmented and virtual reality.
The Hamilton, Ontario, school has put all of that and more into its new Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation, a seven-storey, net-zero-energy facility – the largest building of its kind in Canada – equipped with digital sensors that control and monitor all aspects of its operation. Every inch of the building, from its basement geothermal pumps to its rooftop solar arrays, “is accessible to student learning and building institutional best practices,” says David Santi, Mohawk’s dean of engineering technology.
“It’s a living laboratory that encourages students to think dynamically and collaborate in emerging, high-demand industry disciplines,” he says, noting that they come from across the college and are “cross-functional,” including engineering and skilled trades, business, data analytics, change management and entrepreneurship.
The building, which opened last autumn, is named in honour of a $5-million donation from the Joyce Family Foundation created by Ronald Joyce, the Canadian entrepreneur who invested in the first Tim Hortons donut shop, located in Hamilton. It includes labs focused on avionics, digital health, IIoT digital, cybersecurity, clean and renewable energy and power management, and sustainable design.
Mr. Santi says that industry is increasingly asking colleges and universities to train students on state-of-the-art technology in such settings. They earn “micro-certifications” in the latest robotics or automated equipment, a practice that is “ramping up quickly” at Mohawk. Resumé-boosting co-op programs, experiential opportunities and “real-life” research in the classroom ensures that graduates are “job ready.”
Important partnerships with technology leaders such as Cisco, EON, Dell, Palo Alto, Microsoft and VMware provide the digital assets that underlie labs, along with fully developed curriculum and faculty training. Mr. Santi says that IBM is “in every component of the college.” Mohawk is part of the IBM Premier Academic Initiative, and its multi-faceted alliance with IBM includes a 2,500-square-foot Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) lab where artificial intelligence tools such as IBM Watson and Maximo are used to help students and faculty develop, study and improve IIoT systems. “IBM’s cloud-based analytics provide the tools needed to turn data into insight,” Mr. Santi says.
Building next-generation digital talent is not limited to Mohawk’s labs and classrooms. In a nod to Hamilton as the industrial and manufacturing capital of Canada, Mr. Santi calls the college a “factory,” where the facilities among its three campuses are being connected “so we can take the data from any of the labs and building systems and incorporate it into student learning.”
At its core, the Joyce Centre offers critical lessons. Students get hands-on experience in operating, monitoring and maintaining a zero-carbon building, while the centre serves as a demonstration site for industry partners looking to adopt such technologies into commercial, industrial and residential buildings.
“We can extrapolate what we’ve done here into other opportunities,” says Mr. Santi, who feels that the facility’s real value will be to look at how to rehabilitate older buildings using new digital elements emerging through the students’ applied research.
“They are learning how to manage these technologies and make the right use of them,” he says. “We can help our students understand, behave and influence how we can operate better as a society.”
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