US officials observe high-tech efforts at Queens college

Updated: 2015-01-26 04:26

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York(China Daily USA)

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US officials observe high-tech efforts at Queens college
New York Congresswoman Grace Meng (left), Queensborough Community College President Diane B Call and Chris Lu, deputy secretary of the United States Department of Labor, pause during a visit Friday to Queensborough Community College in Bayside, New York. Call and other members of the school’s faculty hosted Meng and Lu for a tour of the school’s virtual hospital and new 3D printing lab. JACK FREIFELDER / CHINA DAILY 

A tour through Queensborough Community College's most advanced facilities allowed two US government officials the chance to see some of the school's technological feats up close.

"The Obama administration has made an unprecedented investment in community colleges," Chris Lu, deputy secretary of the US Department of Labor (DOL) said. "Queensborough Community College has received grants, not only from the Department of Labor, but also most recently from the State of New York.

"As good a job as we're doing in supporting community colleges, we could be doing a lot better," Lu said Friday at the campus in Bayside, New York.

Lu joined Grace Meng, a US congresswoman from New York, for a brief tour of the school, including its virtual hospital and 3D printing lab. The visit also included discussions about Queensborough Community College's (QCC) career preparation, job training and workforce development initiatives.

Meng said QCC and Queens College (in Flushing, New York) are two schools in her district that are looking to give students strong backgrounds for future careers in technology and healthcare.

"Queens is already a leader," Meng said. "The other community school in my district, Queens College, has more computer science majors than New York University and Columbia University combined.

"Queensborough Community College is doing great work to help prepare our future workforce in Queens and throughout New York," she said. "We just want more attention. Community colleges change lives, and we want more people to know there are wonderful opportunities not just for an education, but also to get jobs soon after."

Meng, a Chinese-American who represents New York's Sixth District, was the first Asian American to be elected to Congress from New York. Her area of influence covers a wide swath of Queens, including Flushing, Kew Gardens and Bayside.

Diane B Call, QCC's president, was among a group of faculty who accompanied Meng and Lu. Call said hosting Lu and Meng was an "extremely proud" moment for the school.

The skills students obtain at Queensborough ensure that they are prepared for employment opportunities in several areas such as the automotive, construction and home appliance industries, said Stuart Asser, professor and chairman of engineering technology at QCC.

Asser said the pace of technological advances requires collegiate institutions to make an investment in exploring 3D printing technologies. And the momentum behind the trend of 3D printing means industries will need employees who understand how to use the new technology.

"We've had companies come to learn about this stuff and to see how they can use it," Asser said. "They were very interested, so we made some things to show them. A lot of interest, but we haven't had any offers to donate money."

QCC, established in 1959, is one of seven community colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY) system. The school has an enrollment of more than 16,000 students.

Queensborough's Virtual Hospital is an advanced teaching laboratory for one of the largest associate degree nursing programs in New York state. The hospital gives students the chance to interact in real time with computer-simulated "patient mannequins". The Engineering Technology learning laboratory gives students hands-on experience in using 3D printers and computer drafting software.

Lu said: "We have put about $2 billion into more training programs in community colleges but we can do more. There needs to be more money put into the system and New York is clearly one of the leaders.

"Our investment to transform community colleges across the country is paying dividends to local workers who are getting the training they need to succeed in 21st century jobs," Lu said. "Queensborough Community College is a leading example of this effort and their advanced training facilities are helping to prepare the local workforce for high-demand jobs in the healthcare and advanced manufacturing industries."