Apr 3, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterIt isn't only health and science students who are using upgraded facilities this year at Central Wyoming College.
Some of the money that paid for CWC's new Health and Science Center in Riverton also went toward an expansion of the school's Professional Technical Center, in particular the automotive and welding departments.
"It's a super quality feel we have now," automotive and welding professor Dudley Cole said during a tour of the facility in March. "It's light, airy and bright. It makes a huge difference in the attitude of the students."
Garages tend to be dark and dingy, he said, but CWC's new shop is warm and comfortable, with acoustic panels to deaden the sound of machinery that echoes through the large room.
The automotive side of the building now is equipped with four new work bays and three vehicle lifts, including a designated area for teacher demonstrations. In the past, Cole said, professors had to use student work space for lessons.
"Now we can put something on a lift over here and it can stay there for a week," Cole said.
Teachers also can monitor student activity more effectively now that the automotive office is located in the center of the shop. Cole pointed out that the office was built with plenty of windows on every wall.
"We used to have blind spots," Cole said. "Now we have total view of the whole shop at all times."
His old office has been turned into a break room for automotive students, who spend their time at CWC learning what it would be like to work at a real garage.
Cole said the shop was designed to give students a realistic experience.
"We went to different dealerships and got ideas (about) what we should be doing," he said. "I think we're there now. We have what we need to make that happen."
First-year student Ambrose Underwood from Arapahoe said he is impressed with the remodel. He always planned to go to school at CWC, but Underwood said he decided to take an automotive class this year because he heard about the upgrades to the ProTech Center.
"It's like a real shop," he said. "It's preparing me. ... It's fun here, they teach me a lot."
On the other side of the building, second-year welding student Bryan Kabe from Pavillion called the construction project "a blessing."
"The main difference is there's a lot more room now," he said. "There's so much more space to do what we need to do."
Welding instructor Darryl Steeds agreed. In the past, he said it would get "pretty crowded" in the welding shop, where five classes would sometimes have to share the same work room.
"This really did relieve a lot of pressure," Steeds said.
It's not only about space, though: Steeds believes his new department is the most up-to-date teaching facility in the state.
"There's nothing old here," he said. "It's all very modern and usable."
Each hands-on course is combined with work in the classroom, where Steeds teaches his students the chemistry that makes their welding work possible.
He also makes sure they are able to read and write blueprints and understand welding symbols.
"They have to be able to decipher what's on that piece of paper," Steeds said.
"We want the guys and gals to be very successful when they leave here. They won't be the greenest hand on the job."
He guessed that most of his students would end up working on the oil patch, though some may go into manufacturing.
No matter where they find employment, though, Steeds said he encourages his welders to become the "safety guy" on the team.
"We hit safety hard," he said. "We make sure when they leave here they do it the right way (so) when they go out in the field to work they're confident."
He added that community members are invited to take welding classes as well.
"This is a community college," Steeds said. "We have a little of everybody here."
CWC's Classroom Wing also was upgraded this year to make space for agricultural science, fire science and high school equivalency work.
"It worked out really nice," associate fire science professor Bill Hitt said. "This way the quality of instruction for students is much better."
He used to have to share space with other instructors, making it difficult to set up that props that are traditionally used to demonstrate fire science.
"It's a four-hour process (to) set up for a hazardous materials simulation," Hitt said. "This gave us a designated area."
CWC's food court saw some improvements, too. It was built in 1993 and had not been upgraded since then according to physical plant manager Wayne Robinson.
"Over 20 years the plumbing was deteriorating," he said.
The dining area has room for more than 110 people now, up from about 75 previously, and the décor has been updated as well, Robinson said.
The dishwasher space that previously divided the kitchen from the dining area was moved closer to the kitchen to provide more open space, according to CWC, and walls were removed to provide better site lines between staff and customers.
Robinson said the Classroom Wing renovations cost about $500,000, while the Pro-Tech remodel was about $3 million. About 65 percent of the project was funded by the state, while CWC provided the remaining 35 percent.
The food court project was approximately $600,000 and was paid for by major maintenance and CWC funds.
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