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Students use tech skills to make trainer

Wilson Community College students, from left, Alford Jest, John Hinnant, Stephen Waters and Ethan Battle stand with their trainer on Tuesday. Drew C. Wilson | Times

Four applied engineering students have done something that few accomplish after manufacturing an end-of-course trainer. 

“They are the second project in the five years that has been fully completed, so that is something to be proud of,” said Richard Harrison, applied engineering instructor for Wilson Community College.

Students Ethan Battle, Stephen Waters, John Hinnant and Alford Jest collaborated to complete a trainer final semester project for their ELC 229 applications project class.

“In this course, they use all of the courses that they have ever been in combined to help them complete a semester project. That is what this course is all about. They have to use their programmable logic controller training, drafting training, electrical knowledge to complete the project that we have,” Harrison said. “We have old trainers that the technology on them is outdated, so the goal for this semester is to update with current controls, current safety measures and modern technology so as you move from here to industry, you are going to have the exact same controls.”

Harrison explained that a trainer could include hydraulics, pneumatics and electrical components.

“Those use components that you would use in industry and train the students on how to diagnose problems, installation, troubleshooting and operation of those so that when they go into industry, they will be prepared for the workforce,” Harrison said. “In addition to that, they have the bragging rights to say that they have updated the trainers that future students are going to come in and use.”

Battle, a 2021 Fike High School graduate, said the project basically mimics an elevator. 

“We just took an old trainer and modernized it with different components to make it work,” Battle said. “You have different ways of making it go down, making go up, give you a warning, a horn and an emergency stop.”

Waters, who currently attends Wilson Early College Academy, said the four group members had to work together.

“Working by yourself is very difficult,” Waters said. “When you have a team like this with four members, it is a whole lot easier to get all these things done. Communication is also very important. Without communication, we would be nowhere right now. If you don’t know what you are working with, it can be a hassle.”

Hinnant, a 2021 Hunt High School graduate, said he used skills that he gained in the last two years to work on the project. He gave credit to the instructors for incorporating modern techniques and equipment in the coursework.

“Every aspect of our classes is geared toward getting a job and just being able to be successful in industry,” Hinnant said. “I just think it’s wonderful. I wish every college and every class was more like these. I have had a great time here. And even before class, we have to clock in just like we were at a job. It just gets you ready, and they really let you know what to expect.”

All the students complimented Jest for sharing real workplace perspectives and tools with them during the coursework.

Jest has worked at Bridgestone for 14 years and recently was promoted to electrical engineer with the company.

Jest is finishing his associate degree.

“This class in particular taught me project management and how to work together as a team and collaborate and bring all parts together to make a finished product, in this case, a trainer,” Jest said. “It is definitely a mixture of real-world experience, which I have had with Bridgestone, plus taking textbooks and merging that together to make it fully usable.”

Harrison said that in addition to the trainer, students collaborated to build an electrical trainer that future electrical students can use.

“It feels great to have not only a group show the interest and dedication in it but also want to be here when they don’t have to be to work on the labs,” Harrison said. “And especially now that COVID restrictions are gone, we see that with a lot of the students. That makes us feel good to see the willingness and dedication to say ‘Can we have more time in the lab? Can we work on these projects?’ It means a lot to see that and to hear that.”