HAMMOND | Cardboard 3-D glasses with red and blue lenses were passed down rows of people seated in folding chairs.
The lights dimmed, and a video appeared on a large projector screen, taking viewers on a 3-D virtual tour of the space behind the screen: the PCL Alverno microbiology lab.
Minutes later, the group saw the equipment and procedures firsthand.
The Hammond lab was the site Thursday of the 20th Innovators Cafe. PCL Alverno hosted the event, which was sponsored by the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center and the Society of Innovators of Ivy Tech Community College Northwest.
Lab director Dale Kahn and microbiology manager Jim Clark described in depth the work Alverno performs, namely processing samples submitted by local physicians, research groups and 26 hospitals in Indiana and Illinois.
One piece of high-tech equipment can identify bacteria a day earlier than traditional methods and help physicians identify the best antibiotic to fight it. Another equipment system automates specimen processing.
PCL Alverno is a designated Siemens Microbiology Innovation Center, serving as a reference for other labs interested in what Siemens offers in microbiology testing.
"May I remind you: this is not Silicon Valley, this is not Boston, this is not New York. This is Northwest Indiana," said John Davies, managing director of the Society of Innovators.
The Innovators Cafe is a series of two-hour sessions that draw leaders from local businesses, municipalities, organizations and academic settings. Each event is at a new location, which groups can tour.
Thomas Coley, chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College Northwest, said hosting the event at the lab would deepen people's appreciation for having such technology in their own backyard.
Thursday's tour included a stop in molecular biology, where workers test samples for bacteria and viruses, such as herpes, pertussis and chlamydia. Groups also visited the anatomic pathology department, where biopsies are examined and abnormalities are sectioned for further review.
Tours also stopped inside two Siemens trucks parked outside. The vehicles travel to various customers, displaying equipment available for purchase.
One machine, the Dimension Vista 1500 Intelligent Lab System by Siemens, can run more than 100 checks on a blood draw. The machine can process about 1,500 samples an hour, said Janet Loritz, a chemistry automation specialist with Siemens and medical technologist.