ATETV Episode 27: The Numbers Add Up

This week we begin by exploring Lasers and Photonics Technologies and Wind Energy technology, and end by focusing on the ways that community colleges are providing students with the core math skills they’ll need to succeed in both of these fields –as well as every other area of technology.

In our first segment, we meet Central Carolina Community College student Todd Devine, who is enrolled in the college’s Laser and Photonics Engineering program. “I have always liked lasers, and ever since I was little I was tinkering with things, and it’s just grown from there.” This lifelong interest is now evolving into a promising career path, with laser technology being used in fields as diverse as surgical procedures and music and video technology.

“Every day there is a new application coming out for lasers, so it’s creating a lot of jobs,” notes Central Carolina’s Gary Beasley. “And guess what? There are not enough technicians to support those applications in the medical field or in telecommunications.” But Central Carolina’s program aims to change that, and Todd Devine is proof positive.

“When I graduate, I think I am going to look toward the medical fields that are dealing with lasers, and help mankind in some way,” says Todd. “I want to do something useful for the world.”

Similarly, as we see in our second segment, the students in the Wind Energy program at Wyoming’s Laramie County Community College are also looking at their technology curriculum as important not just for their careers, but also for our environment and our society.

“When my students come to class, people aren’t sleeping,” says Laramie’s Michael Schmidt. “They are very focused on what they are learning. These people are excited.”

The Wind Energy program is designed to prepare technicians to go into the wind industry to repair utility skill wind turbines, large commercial machines with complex control systems that allow them to produce energy efficiently and to maximize capability. The highly skilled students who emerge from the program are versed in all aspects of wind energy technology, from introduction to wind power, to electricity, hydraulics, and all of the basic core skills needed to excel in the field.

And essential to students’ success is a firm foundation in mathematics. “Math and science are very critical,” adds Michael Schmidt. “Mathematics, specifically, apply to the technical part of the program. Our technicians have to have an understanding of how power is produced. They have to have an understanding of power quality because this power is ultimately delivered to a utility, ends up on a grid and is then delivered to the consumer.”

Which brings us to our third segment, which shows us why community colleges are great places for students to get up to speed in algebra, calculus and other core math skills.

“All technology goes back to math,” notes Scott Edwards of Juniper Networks. “The more you know about math, the better you understand it, and the more clear will be the complex topics that you are going to learn in the future.”

And community college programs provide the support and guidance to enable students to tackle the challenges of higher level mathematics. As Laser and Photonics student Todd Devine tells prospective students, “If you are struggling with math in high school right now, [you should know] that if you just study hard and work through it, it will all pay off.”

Adds Andrew Maynard of the Springfield Technical Community College faculty, “The nice thing about community colleges is that if you are not up to speed in math — whether because you’ve been out of school for awhile or because you had trouble with math in high school — we offer remedial classes to help bring you up to the college level, so you don’t fail.”

And, as this week’s episode shows, success in math translates to success in any technology career.

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