United States Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu spent just as much time taking pictures of the 3-D printers and scanners as he did asking questions about them.
Fresh off the heels of President Obama’s proposal to make the first two years of community college free for prospective students, the nation’s second-highest ranking labor official toured Queensborough Community College’s new 3-D printing lab and virtual hospital with Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) last Friday, both appearing fascinated with the technology.
“I’m very impressed by what I’ve seen,” Lu said. “If we want to stay competitive, we want to train workers for the jobs of the 21st century, we need more like this.”
The tour was to showcase new workforce development initiatives being studied throughout the country, and Meng personally invited Lu to the Bayside school to show off what the newest generation of Queens college students are accomplishing.
Along with Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), several QCC administrators, including president Diane Call, and Community Board 11 members, the duo spent around 20 minutes in both the virtual hospital and 3-D printing lab, where they were given demonstrations of how the technology works and what the students do each day.
With 3-D printers creating iPhone cases and other small objects surrounding them, professor Stu Asser, chairman of the engineering technologies program, told Lu and Meng the college is simply trying to keep its students ahead of the game when it comes to modern technology and job placement.
“There’s the high-end companies like Boeing that know how to use this stuff, and then there are companies that can use it but don’t know how,” Asser said. “Then they’ll need someone who knows how to use that product. And that’s something we hope to provide.”
One of the machines that fascinated those on the tour was a $55,000 3-D scanner, purchased through federal government grants. The smaller printers, of which QCC has 10, cost around $2,500 each and Asser said the school of 16,000 students is looking to purchase a few more in the near future.
However, acquiring grants from corporations, which he said have been interested in the work QCC is doing but have yet to offer any funding, would help make that a reality.
“It would be nice,” he said. “We’ll probably get one or two more printers, but there are other things to advanced manufacturing besides printers, so we’re looking at other types of machines … such as high-pressure water jets … and laser engravers.”
In the school’s virtual hospital, the group learned from nursing department Chairwoman Anne Marie Menendez how students care for lifelike mannequins afflicted with computer-generated illnesses, including a baby named after a firefighter and QCC alum who died in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
After the tour, Meng said it doesn’t surprise her that Queens is becoming a hotbed for advanced manufacturing and medical technologies, what many in the convoy said are the wave of the future.
“We already are a leader here in Queens,” she said, “and we just want more attention and more people to know that there are such wonderful opportunities not just for a good education but for jobs.”