New engineering technology program gives students hands-on experience

December 2015

Tucked between two classrooms down a long hallway in the BioScience Technology Complex, an expanded lab at Palm Beach State College hummed Tuesday with the beeping of equipment and programmers at work.

There’s the humanoid robot for programmers to work on. There’s the alternative energy center that gives students a chance to learn about solar panels, fuel cells and wind farms firsthand. Four new 3D scanners and six new 3D printers are available for use.

The lab, outfitted with the latest equipment, is meant to give the college’s new engineering technology program, which started in August, a recruiting boost.

It’s an outgrowth of the college’s close partnership with aerospace and power industry leaders who said they have a hard time finding highly skilled generic technicians, Professor Oleg Andric said.

“We have all of the technology that we can train the students here,” he said.

About two dozen of the college’s advisers from companies such as Sikorsky Aircraft, SolarTech Universal and Agilis Engineering chatted with students as they toured the lab during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday evening. Students had internships at Pratt & Whitney this summer, before classes ever started, Andric said.

The college paid for new equipment with about $145,000 from a $868,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Robert Van Der Velde said. The college’s leadership hopes it will build a pipeline of students to the engineering technology program.

Electrical power technology students also use the lab and will benefit from the grant. Students who complete either program earn an Associate of Science degree. There are about 70 electrical power technology students and 30 engineering technology students actively pursuing degrees, Andric said.

Ronny Grullon, who will graduate in May with his electrical power technology degree, was part of a group of students who helped assemble some of the solar arrays on campus. As a mechanical technician at Lockheed Martin, everything Grullon learns at the college relates directly to his job, he said.

“Everything is hands on. You don’t only learn the theory. You see in real life what you’re doing,” Grullon said.

That’s something engineering technology student Alexandrew Hintzen appreciates. Andric’s 16 years of experience in the industry allow him to explain why what students see in the field might not match the theoretical number they calculated, the West Palm Beach resident said.

“It’s very hands on, but the professors that teach the courses have a lot of practical knowledge…which I think helps us more than book work,” Hintzen said.

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