PCC Receives First of Three Mobile Labs Purchased with Cares Act Funding

PCC's new IST mobile lab parked outside of the Walter & Marie Williams Building.

WINTERVILLE—Last summer, Pitt Community College administrators signed multiple service agreements as part of a concerted effort to extend educational opportunities to all parts of Pitt County.

This spring, PCC is gearing up to begin taking its educational services to wherever they are needed within the county. On Feb. 24, the college took delivery of the first of three mobile labs it has purchased through CARES Act funding.

“Transportation and time constraints have pretty much always been barriers to higher education, but the reason these labs were ordered was to meet the enrollment and social spacing needs originally called for by COVID-19 safety protocols,” said PCC Construction & Industrial Technology Dean Steven Mathews. “The fact these labs will also allow PCC to meet community members in their own neighborhoods and businesses is a tremendous bonus.”

Mathews says the mobile labs will be utilized by the college’s curriculum, continuing education, workforce development and customized training programs. He said the unit PCC received last month will be used to provide state-of-the-art Industrial Systems Technology (IST) training. The other two have been ordered and will provide HVAC and biotechnology instruction once they’ve been delivered later in the year.

Designed by Learning Labs, Inc., the IST mobile lab measures 43 feet in length. It houses a wealth of training equipment, including hydraulics, fluid power, virtual welding trainers, electrical wiring, HVAC and programmable logic controllers. Mathews noted that the labs have been “set up to be modular,” meaning their equipment can be changed out to accommodate an employer’s specific training needs.

“With the modular design, the current Industrial Systems Technology configuration is not permanent,” he said. “For example, by simply changing out the trainers, it can easily become a mechanical engineering or computer integrated machining lab.”

Depending on training modules and design, Mathews said the cost of each mobile lab varies between $450,000 and $650,000. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act) funding used to purchase them was part of a $2.2 trillion-bill Congress passed in 2020 to provide fast and direct economic aid to the American people negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the three mobile labs, PCC has used CARES Act funding to order a Dodge 3500 truck with a Cummins diesel engine to pull them to their future destinations.

“The IST lab is currently being used to train students here on campus; we will start moving it to additional locations when we take possession of the truck,” Mathews said, adding that Greenville’s Hyster-Yale and Thermo-Fisher had already shown interest in the units for onsite training.