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East County Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2019 1 month ago

New MTC course teaches students how to wire and make machines run

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MTC's Electrical and Instrumentation program goes beyond the wires.
by: Andrew Atkins Staff Writer

While the singular  focus is to prepare students for the workforce, it’s hard to pin down a course description for Bill Lloyd’s new Electrical and Instrumentation class at Manatee Technical College.

Simply said, students learn a lot of stuff.

Like what makes a motor run, or a conveyor belt slide, or a roll of paper towels roll up.

It’s a class about what synchronizes all the processes with the steps to make a bottle that holds water.

“There’s no other course I could find like what we have right here,” Lloyd said.

While students in the MTC’s regular electrician program were learning concepts such as using tools, blueprints, safety and circuitry, Lloyd’s class covers those basics and moves into logic controls. For example, the students might learn to program and wire a sensor and the responses a system might have in reaction to what information goes into the sensor.

In today’s world, it might be more important for students to know how to program a computer to perform a task, than to be able to actually do the task.

Lloyd’s class teaches both.

Students in the course learn everything from electrical wiring to motor controls to programming and logic for machines. They start from the ground up with what they learn, Lloyd said, and learn tactile skills like how to drill, tap, cut and wire.

Students will spend 1,000 hours — approximately 10 months of full-time instruction — in the course. The class, which has 10 students, began in January.

Lloyd started at MTC in August and spent several months preparing the curriculum for students to make sure they aligned with the needs of the program and the state standards mandated by the Florida Department of Education.

The program was created to help meet the needs of local manufacturers, he said.

Students like 19-year-old Daniel Johnsen, of Parrish, found themselves interested in the complexities of the coursework.

“The first couple of weeks, everything seemed (foreign) to me,” he said.

As time went on, he found himself understanding more. “Every day, I’m learning something different.”

While Johnsen is attending the course to set himself up with a future industrial job, 57-year-old Parrish resident and student Rafael Alvarez-Chacon said he joined the class to stay relevant in the workforce.

Alvarez-Chacon has experience working as a civilian mariner on Navy ships. He noted that the industry calls less and less for people who can turn valves and more for people who can operate computers and make the valves open automatically.

So when he heard about the class in December, “I jumped in,” he said.

Like Johnsen, Alvarez-Chacon finds the work to be difficult.

“It’s challenging, but it’s very exciting at the same time,” he said. ‘

Greenbrook resident Connor Blake, 20, heard about the class when he was in the electrical program at MTC and Lloyd came in to discuss the program.

“He really was able to engage the interest I have in developing new techniques, new ideas,” Blake said. “It kind of just fell into my lap.”

He said it was also somewhat of an honor to be part of the first class in the new program MTC is offering.

“We pick and choose what programs, within what we’re given, are necessary,” Lloyd said. “What would help further understanding of what we’re going to be doing into the future of the course?”

Lloyd also emphasized that while all students in the class are currently men, it is not a gender-specific trade.

“We want everyone to get into this,” he said.

Lloyd said that at the end of the day, the work is enjoyable.

“It’s just a lot of fun building something and watching it make something,” he said.

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