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Funds secure future for robotics and welding at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

Nadir_Robot_May2013A generous, and anonymous, donation has helped put new equipment into the hands of students in both Mechanical Engineering Technology and Welding.

The $149,500 donation made to the Okanagan College Foundation was targeted specifically for the two departments, and came at a time when critical pieces of equipment needed to be replaced.

“This helps us out immensely,” said Welding Chair Dean Nutter. “We used our portion of the funds to buy a shear – that’s a big piece of equipment and something we use every single day, seven hours a day.”

The new shear, which mechanically cuts through massive pieces of metal, also provides the latest in safety technology in the form of a laser beam. If that beam is broken, the equipment automatically shuts down.

“This piece of machinery meets and exceeds all the safety and technology standards,” Nutter said.

Over in the Mechanical Engineering Technology department, Chair Reg Marte was working with the department and the Dean’s office trying to figure out where the funds would come from to replace six units of robotic arms used in the second year Robotics course.

“We were just sitting here wishing a pot of gold would come down from the sky, and then it did,” he said. “We don’t know what we would have done without this.”

Marte is grateful to the donor, and also to robotics specialist and Professor Nadir Ould-Khessal, who has been teaching the course and keeping the robots in top shape between classes.

“Nadir is a very happy camper,” Marte said. ”It’s a bit like having an old car – it’s unreliable and can leave you high and dry at any time. As a student working with that, you may not appreciate what’s wrong - that it’s the hardware that’s acting up. And so thankfully, Nadir was there to step in and fix things.”

To get the most out of the donation, Marte and Ould-Khessal researched the alternatives and discovered they could replace the electronic components of the equipment and bring all of their units to modern-day specs.

“What this donation did was upgrade the lab, so we now have a state-of-the-art robotics lab,” Ould-Khessal said. “With this new equipment, we can provide the students with a deeper, richer learning experience in terms of both theory and hands-on skills.”

Along with the new robots, the donation provided for additional $20,000 in components, so students now have six complete stations to work at, removing the needs for classes to share robotic equipment such as conveyors.

Okanagan College Foundation provides support for capital projects and programs and assists the College in building endowments and supporting the long-term academic and other strategic priorities of the College. To reach the Foundation, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/foundation or call 1-888-650-6968.