By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer
The recreational vehicle parked at Cloud County Community College Friday is for anything but recreation.
The vehicle is actually the College's new mobile Agri-Biotechnology mobile lab, which is based out of the Geary County campus in Junction City. Cathy Castle, instructor of science, and Brenda Edleston, division dean of the Geary County campus, brought the lab to the Concordia campus to give faculty and staff a look at the new teaching facility.
The $280,000 facility was funded by a U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration grant. The College is one of seven consortium partners to be awarded a $20 million grant to provide workers with academic and industry-recognized credentials and training to meet the need for a skilled workforce. Cloud County received nearly $1 million of the grant, which has funded the purchase of the trailer, a truck to pull it, and pay the lease on a new science building at the Geary campus.
The College's agri-biotechnology program prepares students for entry-level positions in the industry which is manipulating the genetic make-up of organisms for use in the production or processing of agricultural products.
Edleston said the mobile lab will accommodate 12 students in the microbiology and biotechnology classes. Students enrolled in Castle's online science-based courses will eventually need hands-on lab experience, she said, and that's where the new mobile lab will come into play. Castle will take the facility to a central location to conduct labs for the online students, where they will work with DNA and proteins.
"Students will be able to see the procedures and processes from beginning to end," Edleston said. "Intensive hands-on experience makes for a better training environment."
Castle said that on-campus students complete 48 hours a semester of lab work. By conducting mobile labs on weekends, the online students will have the same amount of time in a lab as their on-campus counterparts.
"We're currently out on show and tells," Castle said. "We'll begin teaching out of it in the fall semester."
The mobile lab features self-contained work spaces for up to 12 students. Each work station has a computer and microscope. Castle also has a laptop that is connected to all the computers, which she can use for presentations and to check students' work.
Two incubators at the back of the trailer give students the opportunity to grow living cells and bacteria. A fume hood provides a sterile environment for bacterial studies. The opposite end of the trailer is a preparation area for Castle, where she can make samples as needed, as well as keep specimens frozen.
When the grant period ends, in September 2014, Edleston said the plan is take the mobile lab to high schools in the College's service area to introduce students to the world of agri-biotechnology.