Jeffrey Griffin, associate professor and director of Purdue Polytechnic Kokomo, is proud to show off the Polytechnic’s high-tech learning environment inside the newly renovated Inventrek Technology Park small-business incubator. Polytechnic Kokomo leases 14,000 sq. ft. on the top level of the expansive, two-story building as classroom space for computer and information systems, mechanical engineering technology, electrical engineering technology and industrial engineering technology instruction. Additional lab space for mechanical engineering technology and electrical engineering technology is found in the cavernous lower level, where more than 7000 square feet of floor space and soaring, 14-feet-tall ceilings provide students with seven times more workspace than they had at their previous, IU- Kokomo campus location.
“In the previous location, the ceilings were low because they were classroom spaces, making it hard to do student projects. We were welding in these spaces that really weren’t meant to weld in,” said Griffin. “We’d like to get bigger CNC equipment,” he said, referring to the computerized machining equipment students use in combination with CAD (computer-aided design) software to make precise custom-cuts into all types of material, including wood, metal and plastic. Having access to CAD and CNC equipment enables students to create customized metal and plastic parts for their projects; however, the scope of those projects had been limited by the size of the CNC equipment available. “Now, we have the room to put in a CNC machine that is industrial size,” said Griffin.
Polytechnic and Inventrek: A mutually beneficial relationship
As much as Griffin credits the high-tech building for bringing opportunities to the Polytechnic’s Kokomo-area students, it is the college’s presence in the building that makes Inventrek a certified technology park.
“In order to be a state-certified technology park, one of the requirements is to be associated with secondary education,” said Mike McCool, who manages Inventrek and heads the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, which spent $4 million renovating the building. “Having Purdue Polytechnic here is a huge advantage because Inventrek is a small-business incubator. It’s good for the entire community to have college students here along with new businesses that are growing. It’s just a super match for us.”
The right fit for students
Savannah Wolf, a junior studying electrical engineering technology, has big plans for her future.
“I want to work in automotive,” said Wolf. “I’d like to work in alternative energy for car batteries, make it the energy of the future and move away from gasoline. I planned to start my internship with Delphi Technologies soon but with COVID, that’s been pushed back. Still, I’m very excited to get hands-on experience in the workforce.”
Wolf prefers the small class sizes of Polytechnic Kokomo.
“It’s really important to me because I came from a small high school,” said Wolf. “Here, you get to know the classmates in your major-specific degrees very well. I’ll have classes with these same guys for the rest of my college career. We meet up for projects and we’re all good friends now. I think that’s really important.”
“Now, we have more room for student projects,” Griffin said. “And that’s what the Polytechnic’s about – being hands-on. Now we have the space to actually do it.”