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QCC Celebrates Grand Opening of QuEST Center

Facilities Will Enhance STEM Programming
A ribbon cutting at the QuEST Center on Jan. 19, 2016.
The new QuEST facility will enhance STEM programs at QCC.

Contact: Josh Martin
Office of Institutional Communications
jmartin [at] qcc.mass.edu
 

Release Date: 
1/20/2016

Despite chilly conditions, dozens gathered outside the new QuEST Center at Quinsigamond Community College to celebrate the grand opening and get the first glimpse inside the science and technology center.

QCC President Dr. Gail Carberry said the event was a celebration of the efforts of so many people and organizations to continue to strengthen the educational pipeline for STEM careers in Massachusetts.

“This is a triangle of opportunity, we are working with other colleges, high schools and STEM companies to support biotech careers and workforce opportunities,” Dr. Carberry said.

The QuEST (Quinsigamond Engineering, Science and Technology) Center will provide students with state-of-the-art labs and facilities ranging from industrial robotics to pharmaceutical testing labs. The building will be open for the spring semester.

This is the latest in QCC’s efforts to address the area’s growing need for skilled workers in the fields of biotechnology, biomedical engineering, pharmaceuticals, advanced manufacturing, mechatronics, robotics and industrial automation.

The 30,000 square-foot QuEST building includes three floors, with labs for mechatronics, electronics, biology, chemistry, biotechnology and pre-pharmacy. There also will be a CAD/CAM design studio and QCC’s first Fab Lab.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said the state has done the hard work of building the blocks and putting the foundation in place to support growth of the tech economy in Central Massachusetts.

“We know that when we invest dollars in the Worcester area, these dollars will be used and stretched to strengthen the economy and the state of Massachusetts,” she said. “Today is another milestone in this momentum and continuing success.”

Last spring, the state presented a grant award of nearly $500,000 from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center to QCC, earmarked for fit-up, furnishing and equipment for the QuEST Center. A $23 million state bond also supports this effort.

Travis McCready, President and CEO of Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, said investing in human capital is important.

“A talented workforce is the rarest and most precious resource, we are proud to be partners with Quinsigamond,” Mr. McCready said. “We will continue to work together to find ways to leverage our human resources and other assets in the region.”

On Tuesday, QCC also hosted a panel discussion presented in partnership with the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, regarding workforce development needs in bio manufacturing and maintaining a competitive advantage.

On the panel was Dr. Laurie Leshin, President of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “Worcester is a college town with more than 35,000 college students. We want to help leverage economic opportunity for the city and the commonwealth,” she said. “Bio-engineering is a growing field of study and we are working with companies to determine their needs. QCC is part of the strong pipeline, the students that come to WPI from QCC are very well prepared. QCC is the single largest institution we accept students from. Congratulations to QCC on this new building and their continuing commitment to their students.”

After the ribbon cutting, visitors donned hard hats to tour the second and third floors of the QuEST Center. Lab spaces are roomy and bright, with natural light streaming through large windows.

Kathy Rentsch, Dean of the School for Business, Engineering and Technology, said the windows are not only energy efficient, but also allow students and visitors to see what is going on inside the labs and classrooms.

“It is great to have this space, built specifically for these labs and academic endeavors,” she said. “In the past, some labs were underground and not well-known. Now we are out in the open and we hope to get students excited about what we offer.”

One of the new spaces Dean Rentsch is most excited about is the Fab Lab, a maker space that can be used by students, entrepreneurs and the community to create prototypes and test design ideas. QCC is the first community college in Massachusetts to be accepted into the Fab Lab network.

The college joined the United States Fab Lab Network in order to provide students and other Fab Lab users with not only the high-tech tools but also access to people, knowledge and idea sharing throughout the 500 Fab Labs in 30 countries around the world. Fab Labs are a network of labs based on the original concept from the Center of Bits and Atoms (CBA) at MIT.

“We are collaborating with Technocopia, a maker space company in Worcester, to get the lab up and running,” she said.

The QCC Fab Lab has been built into the educational specifications of the QuEST Center project and will be equipped with a laser cutter, a vinyl cutter, 3D printers, a 3D scanner, a precision milling machine, molding and casting equipment, and soldering equipment. This equipment will be used to enhance the current curriculum in the Manufacturing Technology and other engineering technology programs.

Quinsigamond Community College is the most affordable higher education in Worcester County. As a regional leader in education and workforce development, QCC serves the diverse educational needs of Central Massachusetts by providing affordable, accessible, and high quality programming leading to transfer, career, and lifelong learning.