Auto body classes get a face-lift with new center

Mansa Wimes, student in the Automotive Technology program, prepares to cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony as others from the College stand by.

Even inanimate objects can experience growing pains. And Jaron Grayless can attest to the unsettling feeling that comes with them.

Enrollment in Ivy Tech Community College–Northeast’s auto body classes, where Grayless is an assistant instructor in the Automotive Technology program, has experienced a steady increase during the past few years, with a 38 percent hike between 2009 and 2011 alone.

This growth had placed strain on the already limited space at the program’s instructional site leased from Glenbrook Hyundai, which lacked formal classrooms and presented numerous challenges.

“We had banquet tables set up as desks in the middle of a working shop. Noise was an issue. We also had no amenities such as the Internet, phones and vending machines for students. We had the now infamous car wash adjacent to our work area,” Grayless said. “Initially, the space worked well, but as each entity grew respectively, we found ourselves needing a more suitable environment,” Grayless said.

Finding that better option has taken college planners time, but now the wait is over with the opening of the Auto Body Center at 7717 Opportunity Drive. The center’s official dedication was October 4.  

The new 10,000-square-foot center represents a $900,000 investment by the Ivy Tech Foundation, which is being leased to the college. The amount includes renovations to the building, which now encompasses four classrooms, two Environmental Protection Agency-approved paint booths, a paint-mixing room and electrical power upgrades, to name a few.

About 150 students were taking auto body classes at the beginning of this year, and now another 100–150 students can be accommodated.

“The new location has more of a formal  ‘college feel,’”  said Automotive Technology Program Chair Bob Huffman. “Additionally, the new location allows for future expansion, as there are two acres included in the purchase.”

Any expansion plans pursued may take the form of new services offered by the program, such as professional development opportunities for auto body specialists already in the field. “This is an area where I would like to collaborate with both our advisory committee and Ivy Tech Corporate College to investigate possible avenues,” Grayless said. “Our field is developing as rapidly as the service sector, with the inclusion of advanced steels, occupant safety restraints, crash-avoidance systems and the techniques needed to repair these systems.”

Students gain experience, community benefits from outreach

The caliber of face-lifts performed by Jaron Grayless and his students might make even comedienne Joan Rivers envious.

Their most recent star client was actually much closer to home than the far reaches of Los Angeles or New York: the Allen County Council on Aging, a division of Aging & In-Home Services of Northeast Indiana. 

For approximately six weeks this summer, the Ivy Tech–Northeast Automotive Technology assistant instructor and his students completely disassembled one of ACCOA’s wheelchair-accessible shuttle vans—vehicles that collectively transport about 250–300 residents around the county each week—for dent repair and a paint job at about one-third the cost charged by traditional auto body shops.

“It turned out to be a win-win, as the students had a rather large semester-long project to complete, which had production deadlines and a projected delivery date—something that will become all too familiar to them once they join the industry,” Grayless said.

Ivy Tech–Northeast provided all of the talent and labor for free while ACCOA covered the materials.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous. It looks new. You can’t tell that any work has been done on it,” said Jenni Showalter, ACCOA’s director. “I’m glad to have had this experience with Ivy Tech.”

Auto Body Center
7717 Opportunity Dr.
Fort Wayne, IN 46825
Location for Auto Body portion of
Automotive Technology

[Get Directions]

See more photos of the auto body center dedication.