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Mobile Information Technology Lab Hits The Road

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) has designed an IT Mobile Netlab with funds received from the U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT3 INTERFACE Grant. The purpose of the mobile lab is to enable NWTC to offer classes in the Network and Computer Support Programs using hardware that would be prohibitively expensive to purchase and install in each geographic location. Mobile Labs are a great way to get out into the community to teach and display the technology that NWTC uses in their classroom.

The IT Mobile Lab also allows NWTC to reach students in remote areas across Northeast Wisconsin, educating them where they live and work.
Mobile Netlab

The IT Mobile Lab is made up of a standard Chevrolet truck work van, with a heated pull-behind 15′ trailer. Unlike similar trailers, the Mobile Netlab is not used as a teaching classroom. Rather it is used to transport equipment around the District. There are nine custom designed rolling pods on the trailer.

NWTC staff recently visited the Brown County and Shawano County Job Centers to showcase the equipment and demonstrate the Computer Support and Network Specialist Programs. There was a full house as Simeon Xiong, Randy Maurer and Chris Gabryszek discussed NWTC’s Network Specialist and Computer Support Specialist Programs, and demonstrated the functionality of the self-contained pods. The pods are able to operate individually ornetworked with the other pods. Each pod has two professional workstation PC’s, dual monitors, a network switch and a supply of removable drives. The students are able to use the removable drives to complete tasks from installing operating systems to troubleshooting server software, to setting up a full domain network. In a class situation, each student has at least one unique drive for each class, allowing them to complete the exercises without interfering with other students using the equipment.

Demonstration at Shawano Job Center Event

IT Mobile Lab demonstration at Shawano Job Center Event. (Photo courtesy/property of NWTC.)

The concept is designed to allow hands-on learning for students. For the Computer Support Program, there are two matching desktop computers. The first computer is completely disassembled. This allows those who are interested in handling and assembling a PC to use the other desktop as a guide, providing a basic overview of what they will learn in the first semester class, Hardware Introduction.

This course is a prerequisite for both programs. Two pods are networked together for the Network Specialist Program to allow a demonstration of how to monitor network traffic, host websites and run multiple virtual machines. These are all fundamentals that are taught in the Network Specialist Program and help demonstrate the less physical and more remote administration that the program encompasses.

The team plans to hit the road for several more scheduled events. Some of the future events will include going to NWTC’s Regional Learning Centers and regional career fairs to continue showcasing the new equipment and providing opportunities for others interested in IT careers to interact with the team and the mobile lab. In the near future these mobile labs will be used to teach classes across the Northeast Wisconsin region.

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