By Joan Koehne '17
Growing up on a hobby farm in Luxemburg, I had plenty of opportunities to drill, pound, saw, and fix–and I tried my darndest to avoid each and every one of these. While I never mastered any handyman skills, I got really good at something else: being Daddy’s little helper.
“Hold this board,” he’d tell me. “Bring me this tool.” “Oil this part.” That’s about all I could handle.
So, it’s no wonder I felt overwhelmed on my tour of the newly renovated Trades buildings at NWTC. I couldn’t imagine myself wiring a house, running a plasma cutter, or creating a prototype of anything more complex than a popsicle stick. But students at NWTC are learning to do these things every day, and they’re learning inside buildings that have been completely renovated and updated.
“Pretty much every part has been touched,” said Dr. Mark Weber, Dean of Trades and Engineering Technologies, as he showed me through the three buildings on campus where the Trades programs are run: the Engineering Technology Center, Building Construction Center, and Advanced Manufacturing Center. Each was more impressive than the last.
NWTC added 10,000 square feet and renovated an additional 125,000 square feet of space, creating a comfortable, welcoming, and state-of-the-art facility for students and instructors involved in the 40 different Trades programs at the college. Paid for by a 2015 referendum, the renovations give the Trades buildings a whole new look and feel.
A warehouse-type entrance gave way to a clearly defined, welcoming entrance with outdoor bean bag toss and bright flower beds.
A dungeon-like feeling was transformed into a bright and airy atmosphere. See-through garage doors replaced solid doors in the labs, and floor-to-ceiling glass brightens the lobby.
A 1970s look became a rugged, contemporary look. Artwork, decorative structural beams, benches, and stairways give the building an industrial feel, which fits the student population to a T.
Outdated classrooms were updated with digital technology and new tools, machinery, and equipment.
Classrooms hidden behind walls are more visible. Spotlight programs, like Prototype and Design, can be viewed through windows. “We wanted to be able to see what was happening in these labs, so we took out the lockers and put in windows,” Mark said.
A confusing layout that required a map to get around was rearranged for easy accessibility. Offices are grouped together inside the front entrance, and like programs are grouped together throughout the facility to foster collaboration. In addition, lecture space is located next to the related lab space.
Buildings which students were eager to depart are now inviting spaces where students linger. “Every chance we could, we put in places for students to hang out,” Mark said. New furniture, computers--even bean bag toss games--were added in the renovation project to make students comfortable on campus and contribute to their college success.
“If I were a student I wouldn’t want to leave,” Mark said.
I didn’t want to leave after my tour, either, but I knew if I stuck around long enough I’d be asked to hold a board or hand someone a tool, or build a 3D model of the city of Green Bay.
I’ll be back for the open house, though, on Oct. 1, and I hope you’ll join me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Koehne is a 2017 graduate of NWTC. A former newspaper editor, she co-owns Writer to the Rescue, the content writing division of Packerland Websites.