Students studying agriculture, diesels and heavy equipment now have plenty of elbow room for study and practice in the new Applied Science Center, which began holding classes this fall at Rend Lake College.
The building allows for the expansion of RLC’s Agricultural Business, Agricultural Production, Agricultural Mechanics, Heavy Equipment and Diesel Technology programs, and some Horticulture study also will be conducted there. The new building is 22,300 square feet and features five classrooms, five offices, a heavy equipment bay and a truck and trailer bay. The latter features a service pit which allows students to get under a truck and work.
The new facility is located on the southwest corner of campus and a parking lot has been constructed directly south of it. This building will allow students to gain experience working on a variety of equipment, such as backhoes, bulldozers, semis and other machines ranging from light-duty agricultural equipment to heavy-duty construction equipment.
“The Applied Science Center gives us more space and the ability to expand programs and enrollment,” said Dr. Jim Hull, Vice President of Instruction. “This is really the first opportunity we have had to focus on medium- and heavy-duty trucks and construction equipment.”
RLC President Mark S. Kern said there has been more than enough student interest and demand for these programs to justify constructing the Applied Science Center.
Rend Lake College has had an agriculture program since 1968, and it has been one of the strongest programs in the state, but it was being housed in a facility that was built in 1972, said Kern.
“Student and faculty response across the board has been extremely positive,” said Dr. Sarah Ochs, Applied Science and Technology Division Chair. “Many have offered suggestions and ideas for future growth. Everything has gone remarkably well and we look forward to growing and expanding. The possibilities truly are limitless with this building.”
A unique aspect of the building is contained in two classrooms which have observation windows which allow instructors to tie their lectures in with visible projects going on in the service bays. It also features a five-ton hoist which runs the length and width of the building.
The new facility also allows the college to host business, industry and organizational meetings, as well as educational groups and contests, such as Future Farmers of America and advisory councils.
Another development in the Applied Science Center is the establishment of a NAPA Inc. parts store, which is now in operation. Students, staff and the general public will be able to purchase parts and supplies there, and in the future, the possibility of students learning about inventory management and the business aspects of a parts store will be explored.
Dean of Instruction Lisa Payne noted that Rend Lake College is one of the few community colleges in Illinois to offer Heavy Equipment/Truck Repair programs.
“Rend Lake College’s Agricultural Mechanics program has been a valuable and important program to the entire Southern Illinois region for the past three decades,” according to information from Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office. “It has been a training program not only for agriculture dealers, but also for construction and trucking equipment companies.”
Students from 100 miles in nearly all directions attend the Ag Mechanics program and placement of these students upon graduation is equally far-ranging.
According to information supplied by Resource Development Specialist Trudee Wynn, there is a projected 528 percent increase in new and replacement jobs through 2009 for bus and truck mechanics/diesel engine specialists, auto service technicians and mechanics, auto body repairers, farm equipment mechanics and mobile heavy equipment mechanics throughout the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Southern Economic Region of Illinois.
RLC has been approached by the trucking industry in the region to train entry-level technicians. While some students training on ag equipment can transfer those skills to heavy truck technology, the college needed to expand the program to include training specific to the trucking industry. The new Applied Science Center will accommodate vehicles of that size.
Physical Plant Director Randall Shively said the color scheme and exterior of the Applied Science Center are consistent with the appearance of other buildings on campus. He said some landscaping work remains to be completed.
The State of Illinois provided $1.5 million for the project and Rend Lake College issued bonds to bring in $500,000.
Ochs said the public is more than welcome to tour the new facility. For more information or to schedule a tour, contact Ochs at (618) 437-5321, Ext. 1260, or call toll-free (in-district only) at 1-800-369-5321, Ext. 1260.
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