Last Tuesday, March 5th, Liz Rozell, Dean of STEM, Cindy Collier, Dean of Allied Health, and I had the good fortune of spending time with Sean Caras, Department Chair of Engineering and Industrial Technology, and Manny Fernandez, faculty in Industrial Technology, as they gave me a tour of the Industrial Technology facilities. I learned a lot about modern day machining and the interrelated nature of the different disciplines, and came to appreciate that there are some fundamentals that cross all disciplines whether we are talking about automotive technology, agriculture mechanics, aviation, etc. Manufacturing as we once knew it is obsolete, replaced by very high level automation technologies.
The 18th century saw the evolution from manmade to machine made in what we refer to as the industrial revolution. This resulted in the emergence of a different kind of skilled workforce, technicians who knew how to run production facilities. Now, in the 21st century, with the integration of computers, digital control technology and machine tools, the skill set needed by technicians has vastly shifted, as entire manufacturing plans can be controlled by engineers at a keyboard.
We toured a simulation of such a manufacturing plant in the lab, and were introduced to the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), a ubiquitous piece of digital equipment used to control machine operations. Our students learn how to assemble such PLCs and program to implement various manufacturing processes.
We were also introduced to the electronics lab where students learn the fundamentals of electricity and electronics – we saw electric circuit boards and the intricate work that goes into their construction, and we saw how these devices are used, e.g. creating thermal sensors that detect anomalies outside an appropriate range and then triggers a response to reject a certain product or “cut off” the flow.
We ended our tour in the engineering lab where we were introduced by Liz to a machine that manufactures 3D objects, made from a computerized graphic. How about using this equipment to have the BC Centennial logo made into key chains for all the 717 employees? This key chain will symbolize 100 years of tradition in excellence manufactured with a state-of-the art technology .
The amazing work that our deans and faculty are doing at Bakersfield Colleges supports the direction that Obama articulated in his State of the Union address. You can find my reflections on Obama’s speech at http://tinyurl.com/bd2yh8j.
Besides gaining an understanding of current manufacturing and machining processes I was struck by the complete dedication of our faculty to keeping the curriculum current, the time spent on customizing and building the equipment for the laboratories, and the absolute pride in having a program that is of the highest quality. Both Liz and Cindy were absolutely immersed with the Sean and Manny in the discussions of learning and the absolute importance of Career Technical Education in our society. Here is an excerpt from an email that Cindy sent me on this topic:
“…. I believe we should showcase what CTE folks do….. we need to recognize the work that CTE faculty do and the hours of prep that goes into our classes ….. CTE programs support our community, improve workforce, improve economy, meet industry needs by staying current …..”
So let’s toast the wonderful work our CTE colleagues (faculty, staff, administrators) do each day to create great learning environments for students. And I say this with great Renegade pride.