Steps to a New Future

The Hatchery at Gannon’s Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge officially opened on Sept. 17, 2021, marking the completion of phase two of I-HACK’s construction.  Gannon and Erie community members gathered to witness the celebratory opening of this innovative third-floor space that is designed to bring together industry development and training with academic learning and creativity.

The Hatchery has quickly become home to networking, idea sharing and creation among the Gannon community and partnering businesses. Here, our students and faculty are engaged in the energy of innovation, forward-thinking and creative solutions. Since its official opening, two core components that make the Hatchery the unique space that it is have been in full use. Courses, research and projects are taking place in the various labs and collaborative spaces while business partnerships are creating practical, hands-on experiences for students.

The Hatchery

Watch a vide of The Hatchery Dedication Ceremony. 

Powering Imaginative Innovation 

The Hatchery is a power source for bringing creative ideas into existence. Each of the labs, classrooms and collaborative spaces serve a distinct purpose that fosters innovation. 

The Erie Insurance Idea Lab is the thought center of The Hatchery and home to Gannon’s minor in innovation and creativity. The space is equipped with large touch displays and adorned with imaginative resources to foster out-of-the-box thinking. The partnership with Erie Insurance brings together Gannon students and faculty with the region’s largest private employer to work on projects that positively impact the community.

The Network Lab & GIS Center is home to Extreme Academy and Gannon’s geographic information systems, or GIS, minor courses. Here, students across disciplines become proficient in digital map-making, as well as geospatial management and technologies while professionals advance their careers with the ExtremeDojo™ online training and certification program. 

The Maker Lab brings ideas and projects to life. Here, students and faculty are engaged in hands-on learning and application. The space is equipped with rapid prototyping capabilities using 3D printers, cutting-edge lasers, laser scanners and an array of soldering tools. It also features high-end video production equipment, as well as sewing and embroidering machines for multimodal creative endeavors.

The Erie Insurance Idea Lab in The Hatchery houses Gannon's new minor in innovation and creativity.

The Knight Studios are a set of quiet rooms to ideate, collaborate and innovate. They include large workbenches and toolkits for students to design and build prototypes. Engineering and business students alike use these spaces within their senior design and capstone projects.

The Project Studios are dedicated spaces for partnerships and contracted work with external partner companies. Here, professionals, students and faculty collaborate on real-world projects and research to solve challenges facing today’s industry. Students work alongside industry experts in paid positions before graduation to build their experience and resumes in their fields of interest.

Futureproof Career Experience

The university’s forward-thinking vision and $3.9 million investment into The Hatchery created a space for students and faculty to engage in meaningful, collaborative project work with local and global business partners. This business model creates research, project and internship opportunities that provide real-world value for students and serves as talent-spotting opportunities for employers.

“Gannon prepared a space for this training. ...It’s putting meaning behind what’s being taught in the classroom.” - Brad Gleason

“This model is more important now than ever before,” said Brad Gleason, director of entrepreneurial operations. “Businesses are shrinking their footprint, many are working from home, and professional job training has become a challenge.” 

“Gannon prepared a space for this training and outsourced work that allows students to learn companies’ proprietary tools and their culture. It’s building their confidence in the workplace, and companies are spotting talent in return. There’s a return on investment for both and it’s putting meaning behind what’s being taught in the classroom,” Gleason said.

As part of this model, students can work with companies as early as their second semester. The outsourced work has created an ideal feed of internship candidates and entry-level hires for the companies while bringing students valuable hands-on experience and jobs prior to graduation.

“It is very important to me that Gannon is giving me the amazing opportunity to have real-world experience in a work environment while still in college,” said Christopher Heinrich, student and contracted intelligence analyst. “This is helping me gain work experience, make new connections, and exposing me to data analysis techniques.”

Through a contract with a partnering company, Heinrich is responsible for daily monitoring of news relevant to several business units, as well as production and dissemination of daily intelligence products using cutting-edge data mining technology. 

Extreme Networks was the first to engage in The Hatchery’s collaborative model. The partnership focuses on elevating Gannon’s cyber curriculum with certification training, bringing new professional training opportunities to the region, and equipping I-HACK with state-of-the-art networking technology. A partnership with Erie Insurance   soon followed to provide workforce development and student employment opportunities by bringing together their employees, Gannon students and faculty to work on projects that impact the community.

Franklin Castro Espinosa stands at the top of the staircase of the newly-opened Hatchery floor in the I-HACK building.

Franklin Castro Espinoza is currently pursuing his MBA is business analytics, focusing on the safety and integrity of financial data.

Since then, Gannon formed additional partnerships with several local corporations seeking exceptional talent. These partnerships include regional-based MCPc Inc. and Ben Franklin Technology Partners, as well as global-based companies UNISHKA and Aurora Worldwide Development Corp. 

Work with MCPc Inc. focuses on security and networking utilization and optimization while Ben Franklin Technology Partners provides both early-stage and established companies with funding, business and technical expertise. The partnerships with these local companies provide collaboration among subject matter experts to execute projects and research that is focused on crowd funding, networking operations and technology.

The global partnerships are engaging students in practical experience in creating deliverables for stakeholders. Through UNISHKA, students are trained in anti-corruption through data collection, as well as anti-money laundering data analysis. The partnership with Aurora WDC provides students with business, entrepreneurial and critical thinking experiences through identified contract work. 

Franklin Castro Espinoza  began working on the Aurora WDC contract in May 2020 when finding work during the height of the pandemic was challenging. He is an I-HACK analyst who provides actionable insights to relevant decision-makers of a business intelligence consultancy with a portfolio of 500 customers.

“...(This) helps students become more responsible and passionate about their tasks. ...It makes Gannon stand out.” - Franklin Castro Espinoza

“I have been learning a lot about major tech companies going into the health industry to provide better support and data. However, one of the biggest issues is keeping patient data (health records) safe,” Castro said. “I am currently pursuing my MBA in business analytics, so I have learned a lot about the power and dangers of big data. For this reason, my goal is to become a forensic accountant to ensure the safety and integrity of financial data.”


Take a visual tour of The Hatchery.

“Going through an experience like this helps students become more responsible and passionate about their tasks. When students go into the real world, they are more prepared than other candidates in a job position or field. It makes them stand out and it makes Gannon stand out,” Castro said.

By Mallory Bottoni '14, marketing and communication specialist 

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