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Massachusetts Life Sciences Center awards more than $2 million to local schools

Date: 4/2/2015

GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, Longmeadow, Pittsfield and Greenfield schools and colleges were the recipients of more than $2 million in grants from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC).

The grants were announced on March 27 at an event at Springfield Technical Community College. Dr. Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of the MLSC, also made a separate announcement at Chicopee Comprehensive High School (Chicopee Comp) about the $83,000 grant to that school.

The grants announced include:
• $972,850 to Springfield Technical Community College to be used to establish a Biomedical Engineering Technology associate degree program with two tracks and to enhance STCC’s existing Biotechnology associate degree program.
• $500,000 to Berkshire Community College to purchase a reverse engineering equipment and 3-D prototype printers and to develop new courses.
• $500,000 to Bay Path University to purchase science equipment that will expand the school’s opportunities for student research.
• $300,000 to Holyoke Community College that will supplement the $3.8 million award in 2013 from MLSC.
• $50,000 to Vertitas Preparatory Charter School in Springfield to buy scientific-grade equipment including microscopes, sensor equipment, thermometers, timers and cameras, among other items.
• $48,455 to the Zanetti Montessori Magnet School to enable the school to offer the “Growing Engineering Minds” program.
• $83,086 to Chicopee Comprehensive High School to buy a Objet30 Pro 3-D printer that will then allow the school to offer an Additive Manufacturing course.
• $99,557 to Franklin County Technical High School in Greenfield for equipment and the addition of modern workspaces.
• $99,991 to Springfield High School of Commerce for the purchase of interactive whiteboards and digital cameras that attach to optical microscopes and a 3-D printer.

At Chicopee Comp, Ken Widelo, director of Career and Technical Education noted the application for this grant had been rejected twice before and Windham-Bannister thanked him for his persistence.  

Widelo explained the 3-D printer would allow students to create prototypes of designs,

 “This is a big, big thing,” Widelo said. He added Chicopee Comp would be the first high school in the Commonwealth with such equipment.    

Windham-Bannister also thanked members of the Legislature who were present – state Reps. Joseph Wagner and Jose Tosado and state Sen. James Welch – for their help.

“Your support enables us to do this work,” she said.

The MLSC has been charged with helping the Commonwealth increase its life science industry with a pool of $1 billion in grant money to be distributed over a period of ten years, she explained.

She said that at present three “huge” companies are considering moving to Massachusetts and the first question they ask is about schools and students and the education of the workforce.

Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos noted that while on the board of the Regional Employment Board, he learned there are jobs in Western Massachusetts for trained workers.

At the announcement in Springfield, Windham-Bannister said biotech, medical devices and pharmaceuticals are the fastest growing job sectors in the state and have seen a leap of 17.5 percent.

“Massachusetts is the global leader in life science,” she added.

This has not come about “by accident,” she explained. Public money has been used to leverage private investment and that for every dollar of state funds that has been matched by $4 in private funds.

The major priority of the life science program, she said, “is not just growing jobs, but making sure the state has workers.”

Dr. Adrienne Smith, the dean of Engineering Technology and Mathematics explained to Reminder Publications the new program would be in place for students in the fall of 2016.

She predicted the first group of students would be from 20 to 25 students and grow from there.

Smith said the training in this degree program would qualify students for entry-level positions in the biotechnology field.

“There is definitely a need [for this program] in this corridor,” she added.