New Hub Supports STEM Innovation in Pottstown

Hydroponics Green WallApril 16, 2016, Pottstown, Pa.—Montgomery County Community College celebrated the opening of its highly-anticipated Sustainability and Innovation Hub, located at 140 College Drive, Pottstown, on April 18. The multiphase project, which began in 2010, transformed the former energy substation and three-acre brownfield site into a state-of-the-art center for education, innovation and conservation.

“The Sustainability and Innovation Hub is a truly collaborative space where faculty, students and members of the community are learning, sharing knowledge and working together to create a healthy and sustainable environment—one that enhances the economic health and well-being of the Greater Pottstown community and the County,” said MCCC President Dr. Kevin Pollock.

U.S. Congressman Ryan Costello, Pennsylvania Representatives Mary Jo Daley and Tom Quigley and Montgomery County Commissioners Dr. Valerie Arkoosh and Joseph Gale joined College officials to celebrate the opening, which included a ceremonial vine cutting with garden shears rather than a traditional ribbon.

Vine Cutting ceremony

College and community officials cut the ceremonial vine. Photos by Sandi Yanisko

Faculty and students showcased the facility’s unique lab spaces for those in attendance.

On the Hub’s first floor is an Aquaponics teaching laboratory and Hydroponics green wall, which support MCCC’s interdisciplinary Environmental Studies degree program and will support future credit and non-credit programming in such areas as greenhouse technology, food production, and horticulture and landscape design.

Aquaponics

Aquaponics is an integrated system of fish and plants. 

“Aquaponics integrates growing fish and growing soilless plants in an integrated system that mutually benefits both environments,” explained Dr. David DiMattio, MCCC’s dean of science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM). “It provides students, faculty and local businesses with teaching, learning and research opportunities in such critical sustainability issues as water conservation, efficient land use, environmental preservation, and natural fertilization.”

The Hub’s second floor is an Engineering Design Center, which supports MCCC’s Engineering Technology program. This program prepares graduates for careers in the advanced technology fields of instrumentation, communications, and mechanical structures and systems. In this space, student work with robotics, quadrotors and 3D printing.

 Engineering Design Center

An Engineering Design Center is on the Hub's second floor.

The Hub’s third floor is a flexible innovation space, intended as a “technical playground” for developers and designers to receive mentorship, learn new technologies, start side projects and collaborate on existing initiatives. MCCC’s new Software Developer Academy will offer it’s first class here in June.

“The format and programming in Hub is flexible, but the goal is the same: to provide students, faculty, businesses and the community at large with the opportunity to collaborate with other developers and designers to build, learn, and get hands-on experience with the latest technologies. The College will bring in mentors to help with projects, experts to teach new skills, and developers to make connections,” said DiMattio.

The building at 140 College Drive has a storied history, dating back to the early 1900s when it was an energy substation. Fast forward 100 years and it’s now a sustainable energy hub, complete with a green roof, wind turbines and now innovative hydroponics, aquaponics, engineering and computer science laboratories. The front portion of the building is home to the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area (SRHA).

- Alana J. Mauger

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