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Classes underway at Center for Manufacturing Innovation

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Greenville Technical College mechatronics student Ashley Edmond is excited about the opportunity to work with all of the new equipment at the Center for Manufacturing Innovation.

“When we walked in we were like kids in a candy store when we saw all of the new equipment,” she said during the first week of classes. “I originally wanted to do something in 3-D printing, but now that I’ve gotten into the classes and into everything, there’s so much I want to do. So many doors have been opened.”

Classes are underway at the $25 million, 100,000-square-foot facility, located on Millennium Boulevard near the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research campus. The center includes a manufacturing incubator, 22 offices and a variety of meeting areas.

Brandon Gillespie, also a mechatronics student, said he chose to study mechatronics “because there are a lot of manufacturing plants around here.”

The excitement of the new facility and equipment, along with the start of classes, had Rodney Jones a little bit nervous. The academic program director of mechatronics at Greenville Tech said he was “kind of nervous about getting everything together to make sure all of the programs are set and all of the equipment is here.”

Rodney Jones, academic program director of mechatronics at Greenville Tech, left, and students Brandon Gillespie and Ashley Edmond maneuver the arm on an ABB robot at the Center for Manufacturing Innovation. (Photo by Teresa Cutlip)“We want to make sure we are still producing the quality of students that we have back at the Brasier campus,” he said.

The center’s director David Clayton, a Clemson engineering graduate who previously worked as a S.C. Department of Commerce research executive, said the center plans to accommodate about 200 students by the spring semester.

I feel like the luckiest person in Greenville right now because we have this great facility and equipment. This is real world working equipment. It’s most exciting to see our students here,” he said. “The center offers more than just training. It provides what you will see in the workplace – the newest state-of-the-art technology.”

Clayton added that the knowledge and experience students can gain is very valuable as it prepares them for “great careers with great companies. It’s just a dream come true in terms of manufacturing and training,” he said.

In addition to providing training, Clayton said the center will serve an important role as a recruiting showcase for manufacturing and economic development in Greenville County and the Upstate.

When prospective students, their parents, community groups and manufacturers arrive, they immediately are able to look over training in mechatronics, computer-controlled machinery and robotics … all from an open-air, large-windowed upper level of the building.

“So for a student, visitor, parents or guidance counselors who don’t get to go into many manufacturing facilities, most of them are closed for safety or intellectual property or security, this is a great way we can bring in groups,” Clayton said earlier this year when the center was under construction. “We can talk to them about what they are seeing from above and then they can come down and tour the whole facility.”

Showing off the automation and advanced manufacturing workplace will help counter a “lack of interest by young people in manufacturing as a career,” according to Greenville Tech. 

Reach Teresa Cutlip at 720-1223.

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