t Sheridan College in Brampton, Ontario, the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies (CAMDT, or “Cam-Det” as those involved affectionately call it) is a massive technology playground filled with 3D printers, robotics labs, and other cutting edge manufacturing tools. Here, students and businesses collaborate to solve real world engineering problems. Inviting private industry into the classroom may seem unorthodox, but it pays dividends in both directions. “When you get students involved, they bring all kinds of fresh ideas because they haven’t been hindered by working within the industry and thinking about all the limitations,” says James Janeteas, President of Cimetrix Solutions Inc, a CAMDT partner which provided the industrial 3D printers for the facility.

Hargurdeep Singh, a graduate of Sheridan’s Mechanical Engineering – Design and Drafting program who completed his co-op placement at CAMDT, sees the centre’s focus on 3D printing and robotics as the spark for a new cohort of entrepreneurs: “The interest in this technology just keeps growing. There’s a huge application for start-up companies. Students now have a great opportunity to utilize technology to bring products to the market much more quickly and efficiently than they could have before.”

“But you really need to be in the right surroundings to kickstart the thought process. A lot of it has to do with the culture and environment you create.”

Of course, those who want to seek employment in a more traditional sense after their time at CAMDT have a positive outlook as well, especially with the extra practice in soft skills that traditional engineering programs too often neglect. Singh is now a 3D Printing Business Development Specialist at The Printing House, and it didn’t take him long to land that gig. “I graduated on a Friday,” he says. “Monday I was at work.”

It takes a village

in addition to reaching out to industry, the College has also partnered with the City of Brampton and the Brampton Library to create MakerSpace Brampton, a creative space where kids, teens, and adults alike get hands-on experience with new technologies and opportunities to make connections with experts and mentors in advanced fields. “The MakerSpace is an example of the city working as a facilitator for collaboration, connecting stakeholders to new opportunities,” says Kelly Stahl, a Senior Advisor at City of Brampton Economic Development. She is fascinated by the response within the community: “It is so interesting to see what can happen when you create a culture of innovation that isn’t just industry-led, but actually resident-led as well.”

When the entire community comes together like this to foster creativity and inquiry, people begin to innovate spontaneously. “To some extent you can teach innovation,” says Janeteas. “But you really need to be in the right surroundings to kickstart the thought process. A lot of it has to do with the culture and environment you create.”

Perhaps then, the ideal culture of innovation can be thought of as a machine with three interconnected parts: At one end, a vibrant and active industry. At the other, an empowered and interested populace. And in the center, an educational sector engaged, from elementary to post-grad, in cutting edge projects. When these three cogs are running together seamlessly, a feedback loop of innovation takes hold.