ATETV Episode 25: Technology and Real-Life Applications

This week, we look at ways that community colleges are working hand-in-hand with industry to create curriculum that will enable students to “hit the ground running” upon graduation.

In our first segment, we visit Stark State College, where a two-year associate’s degree in fuel cell technology incorporates mathematics, chemisty and physics, as well as specialized fuel cell curriculum, as part of an overall mechnical engineering program.

“We are very tight with business, so we listen very closely to their needs,” explains Stark State’s Dennis Trenger. “Our curriculum provides as broad of a picture as we can paint right now, because this field is constantly changing.”

In addition to the two-year degree program, Stark State also offers students the option of a one-year certificate program in fuel cell technology. “Perhaps students have already been out in the field and have some mechanical engineering skills or even electrical engineering skills,” says Dennis. “With this certificate program they could come back and take our fuel cell courses to actually move them in a little different direction in their careers.”

For student Dena Mayhorn, the certificate program is proving to be exactly the right fit for her needs after 20 years of employment with Acura. “I feel that fuel cell technology is going to be used in many areas, including the automotive industry. This program is a great way to get exposed to some of these new technologies.”

As we see in our second segment, Saddleback College’s partnerships with industry are providing students with state-of-the-art education in rapid manufacturing, the field that enables companies to create three-dimensional computer models of real-world objects in advance of product development.

For the industries of today to be globally competitive, they need people with skills that can drive a product to market in a very short period of time. “Many of today’s companies, particularly the Fortune 50s that are involved with our [Rapid Tech program] are interested in bringing their high-end manufacturing design and tooling back from overseas,” says Saddleback’s Ken Patton. “This is going to create high-wage jobs here in the U.S.”

And graduates of Saddleback’s Rapid Manufacturing program — which provides students with the same experiences they will encounter in the work world — will be ready for these opportunities.

“Our students have to come up with a product that they think is manufacturable and sellable,” explains Saddleback’s Ed Tackett. “They have to conduct market research, develop a business plan, do multiple iterations using the different technologies in the lab and then present their report to an industry panel that we invite in at the end of each semester.”

As this week’s episode illustrates, college programs that partner with industry give students the added benefits of real-life applications, providing them with an important edge they enter today’s competitive job market.

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