June 27, 2022

By Ahmad Khan, Spoke News

Conestoga College let the public get a first glimpse of its new research and innovation hub in Cambridge, Ont., during Doors Open Waterloo Region on Sept. 15.

The new institute is located in the Gaslight District, steps away from the Grand River and in close proximity to the newly opened pedestrian bridge in Cambridge.

The name itself — Conestoga@TheFoundry — is a combination of the traditional and the modern, said John Tibbits, president of Conestoga College.

“The name was selected to link modern technology to an older site and to blend history and the future together,” he said.

Dr.John Tibbits
Barbara Fennessy, left, Ignac Kolenko, John Tibbits and Jennifer Fletcher, right, helped show off Conestoga’s new state-of-the-art applied research hub in Cambridge, Ont., at Doors Open. Photo by Ahmad Khan, Spoke News

The facility, which hosts a waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) lab and Centre for Smart Manufacturing (CSM), displayed seven of the projects currently underway with different industry partners. The total facility has an area of approximately 13,000 square feet. The lab space itself covers an area of approximately 8,000 square feet.

According to Hamid Karbasi, NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges, the primary aim of the WEEE lab is the developing of new technologies using artificial intelligence, automation and robotics to improve material recovery in the electronic recycling plants.

“This is a one-of-a-kind lab in a college setting in Canada, dedicated to serving waste recycling industry,”Karbasi said.

Hamid Karbasi
Hamid Karbasi said Conestoga’s facility is one-of-a-kind among colleges in Canada. Photo by Ahmad Khan, Spoke News

“Previously, we were scattered around different campuses and now we have come together in this spacious facility. We have more advanced equipment so we can serve our industry better.”

Ignac Kolenko, director of Conestoga’s Centre for Smart Manufacturing, said, “We are at a point where people are seeking us out, as opposed to us seeking new partners. Industry partners are recognizing the quality and innovation we bring to the table. We are one of the best kept secrets when it comes to research.”

“The Doors Open initiative is phenomenal,” said Jennifer Fletcher, associate director of applied research and entrepreneurship at the college. “It allows us to showcase what the college does. We have amazing programs, and it is nice to show the community what we are doing here.”

The Kennaways
The Kennaways sharing a nostalgic moment with Jennifer Fletcher, associate director of applied research and entrepreneurship at Conestoga College. Photo by Ahmad Khan, Spoke News

Several people from the community came to see the new facility. For Bob and Rosemary Kennaway, the place had a very special emotional significance.

“We both used to work here when it was Sheldons. I used to work in Plant 2, which was the other building,” Bob Kennaway said, adding that Rosemary Kennaway worked in Plant 1 — the building that houses the research and innovation hub. “We met here in 1980 and we eventually married. We worked together here for six or seven years. Both our children went to Conestoga. This place holds very special significance for us.”

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