Bringing the future into focus: full-circle advanced manufacturing education center in a historic mill building.
This ambitious project, spearheaded by the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce’s President and CEO Jeannie Hebert along with the BVCC and Massachusetts Central Workforce Board, aims to equip area students with highly-sought-after advanced manufacturing skills to meet local industry demands. Located in a beautiful, refurbished space in the Linwood Avenue mill building, the space is appointed with state-of the-art digital fabrication equipment to help provide local students with real-world industry experience.
The main goal of the BV Ed Hub is to provide a technical learning space and early exposure to fabrication tools, while students prepare for entry into a technical college program. Additionally, the BV Ed Hub will expand regional technical education and make high-quality career programs accessible to people across the state of Massachusetts, offering continuing education opportunities. The Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce Advisory Committee along with the Central Workforce Investment Board aspired to bring the future into focus for the local economy with the development of the Ed Hub. Advanced Manufacturing was chosen as the initial vocation to be invested in by the program, bringing the Linwood mill space full-circle as a center for incubating innovative methods of production, and training future machinists, designers and engineers.
The Ed Hub worked closely with Mark Lyons from AET Labs to secure funding from the Baker/Polito Skills Capital Grant initiative. Generous support from multiple local secondary and post-secondary institutions and businesses rounded out funding to purchase and install equipment and make the necessary space renovations to support this effort. The facility also features a state-of-the art Stratasys Continuous Build 3D printer that enables students to 3D print from a remote location on a scalable and cloud-enabled system.
Other accoutrements to the center are a Stratasys F123 series industrial-grade FDM 3D printer, a 20-seat computer lab featuring Onshape CAD software, an Epilog Laser Fusion cutter and engraver, Formlabs 3D printer, D.I. Wire’s CNC wire bender a Creaform 3D scanner, a Carvey desktop CNC carving machine and large scale monitors for video conferencing from OneScreen.
A lack of skilled workers to support a vibrant manufacturing region, and a lack of infrastructure to support regional enthusiasm for technical education.
There simply are not enough skilled workers to meet the demands of Massachusetts’ Blackstone Valley region’s manufacturing sector.
Due to the high demand in MA for training and up-skilling courses, many students who apply to technical schools and certification programs get turned away or placed on months or years-long waiting lists. Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce decided to step in and help their region meet this challenge.
Community leaders acted upon the opportunity to help ease this pressure by spearheading the development Advanced Manufacturing Education Hub, called the Blackstone Valley ED Hub, utilizing the same Linwood Mill building space that houses the chamber. With enthusiasm from the community and investments and grant-funding in place, the BVCC, led by Jeannie Hebert, Chamber of Commerce President, sought guidance in creating a space that met the needs of both students and the industry that sorely needed talent.
Supporting the Design and Creation of the Blackstone Valley Education Hub
Along with enthusiastic financial support from local academic institutions and businesses, the EdHub Advisory Committee worked closely with Mark Lyons from AET Labs to secure funding from the generous Baker-Polito Skills Capital Grant initiative.
This allowed the committee purchase and install equipment and make the necessary space renovations to support this effort. The facility includes a state-of-the art Stratasys Continuous Build 3D printer that enables the students in the program to 3D print from a remote location on a scalable and cloud-enabled system, along with a fleet of 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC machines.
As a former educator and engineer, Lyons’ skills in setting up classrooms and labs were integral in preparing the space that was built out with assistance from Valley tech students. High-tech white boards and CAD-ready computers are central to the operation, the investment in which is already proving to be incalculable amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Students are able to work remotely, and educators can easily monitor the workflow many of the digital fabrication tools off-site.
Interview with BVEH Executive Director, Karen Ares, in Worcester Business Journal
October 12, 2020: Worcester Telegram: Blackstone Valley EdHub Celebrates 2nd Anniversary
Milford Daily News April 2020: Blackstone Valley Tech turning out 3D components in coronavirus fight
September 18, 2018 Worcester Telegram: Blackstone Valley Education Hub opens to teach advanced manufacturing skills to students, adults
“AET Labs has been our savior in creating the Blackstone Valley Education Hub (BV Ed Hub)! The Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce was fortunate enough to receive a large Work Skills Capital Grant from the MA Department of Higher Ed to create fabrication, design and computer labs. AET Labs provided us with the expertise and know-how we needed to successfully reach our goals. . . At the end of the project we got rave reviews from the community, our students, teachers, schools and our legislators.”