Palm Beach State College launched its new Innovation Lab at a grand opening ceremony Thursday with a ribbon-cutting, remarks by College and industry leaders and student technology demonstrations. Housed in the Technology Center on the Lake Worth campus, the 1,264 square-foot former classroom has been reimagined as a high-tech sandbox that will provide students with the tools and technologies they need to tackle actual industry challenges in collaboration with area businesses.
“The lab is designed to connect PBSC students with industry, providing students with hands-on experiences that prepare them for placement upon graduation,” said Kimberly Allen, PBSC associate dean for business and computer science. “We see it as a space that will continue to grow and evolve in response to industry trends.”
The Innovation Lab was set in motion by Dr. Alireza Fazelpour, a PBSC computer science professor, and developed through the collaboration of faculty, staff and business partners.
Olivia Witkowski, co-chair of PBSC’s Computer Science Business Partnership Council, noted that such labs are springing up more and more because they are effective.
“If I’m a company, I’m going to look at an innovation lab and see what the students are producing there,” said Witkowski, who is a senior software engineer at Dycom Inc. in Palm Beach Gardens. “It gives companies a place to look for talent, and it gives students a place to go to showcase their talent.”
Crossmatch, another Business Partnership Council member, has already given a project to the Innovation Lab. The Palm Beach Gardens provider of security solutions, including biometrics scanning software used by governments and corporations worldwide, wants PBSC students to produce an internal tool that supports the company’s production work. A dedicated project manager will interact with the students throughout the project and conduct sessions in the lab.
“What I like about the Innovation Lab is that it gives the students a chance to work on modern hardware and software,” said John Howard, director of software development at Crossmatch. “Sometimes people come to work for us who haven’t been exposed to that. We want the students to be prepared, and this lab gives them a chance to get a lot of good experience so that by the time they come to companies such as Crossmatch, they can hit the ground running.”
The lab, located in TC 321, will be open every weekday, and students will have access to faculty within the lab, as well as industry through events and workshops. Projects will be integrated into the core curriculum of computer science programs in networking, programming, cybersecurity and other IT disciplines. However, the lab’s scope is not limited.
“This lab will go beyond the classroom to give students more hands-on opportunities,” Fazelpour said. “We’re going to have interdisciplinary collaboration across the different departments of the College as well as possibly other institutions in the area. We would like to make it a center for the community.”
Some students, including members of the PBSC Technology Club, have played an important role in setting up the Innovation Lab, including club president Giovanny Guarin, who is pursuing the Network Administrator Associate in Science degree and has just started an internship with Dycom Inc.
“This space is definitely a needed area for collaboration,” Guarin said. “Students can come and not only mingle and work on their own projects, but also have that team-building experience. Having access to all these resources and wonderful professors that are on campus will lead us into many opportunities and the possibility of working with our future employers.”
PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D., is always looking for ways to set PBSC students apart. “I want our students to be employees that businesses can’t do without because they’re the ones that had this advanced technology experience,” she said. “The Innovation Lab will make a difference for our graduates, and hopefully for our employers when they hire our graduates.”
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