More Than Just Tractors

The Engineering and Technology Department

More Than Just Tractors

Kamille Ritchie, Cactus Editor

If you look towards the back of the Signal Peak campus, you’ll probably notice a dozen tractors sitting in a dirt lot. Students often conclude this is the Agriculture building. While this is true, but there is so much more going on. The V building, or the Engineering/Technology department, houses several programs including Agriculture, Computer Aided Drafting, Diesel Mechanics, Heavy Equipment Operator, Welding Technology, and Manufacturing Engineering Technology.

The V building became home to the Engineering and Technology department in 1975, although the first classes were held sometime in the early 1970s. Unlike other buildings on the Signal Peak Campus, the V building is made up of four buildings [that said, small buildings] and is encased within a wall. Coming through the gates from the student/faculty parking lot, students will immediately enter the welding yard. It is here, students use hands-on welding techniques to design and fabricate many of the products you see in the yard. One of the products, a barbecue grill, was created from start to finish by a team of six in fall 2017 for a welding contest. With only a day and a half to make this piece, the team accomplished a lot. And if you are curious, yes, the grill does work.

Three of the four buildings that make up the V building surround the welding yard, the fourth building houses some of the department’s professors, including Division Chair and Professor of Agriculture, Kristen Benedict. It also holds the Manufacturing Engineering classes. Inside, students will find computer labs as well as rooms tailored to certain jobs, such as assembly lines. Each machine facilitates identical tasks that students might encounter on a faculty assembly line. The machines are adaptable, allowing instructors to program errors in which students learn to troubleshoot to fix them. If students venture farther, they will also find rooms dedicated to PLCs and air control hydraulics.

Returning to the welding yard, a student can find some of the larger engines Diesel Mechanic students work on. In the building adjacent to those, even more engines, gears, and many other diesel related parts can be found; not to mention, a giant loader! This wing also features a room dedication to heavy equipment simulations. This is where heavy equipment operators (H.E.O.) first start. The simulations work like video games, providing students with different scenarios and allowing them to virtually operate different types of heavy equipment.

Prof. Benedicts says, “Students who know how to work video games do well on these simulations because heavy equipment operating is all hand-eye coordination.” Once students have graduated from the simulations, only then are they able to operate the equipment in the yard.

Directly adjacent to this wing is the yard, a variety of heavy equipment, such as excavators, loaders, and of course, tractors can be found here. Students practice their operating skills here and in fields surrounding the campus. The majority of the equipment comes from CAT construction company and is CAC owned. On occasion, the department will receive equipment from business partners for students to use. “People don’t realize how much we have. Not many colleges have this type of equipment,” Prof. Benedict says. The H.E.O. students also help provide research for other companies. As of now, the college is acting as a research hub for Kubota, a construction and heavy equipment company based in Osaka, Japan. Students are expected to put in at least 500 research hours testing the lender equipment sent by the company.

Some of the most exciting developments in CAC’s Engineering and Technology department is their involvement with drone technology. Having just received their first drone, the department is currently integrating the new technology into current curriculum with the help of industry alliances. According to Prof. Benedict, the drone CAC has received is being utilized to help instruct in civil engineering, construction, row crop analysis, as well as within the programming of heavy equipment. The drone is also being used in GIS, or Geographical Information Systems; the drone takes pictures of city overviews and overlaps them to help determine where to place things such as telephone poles, and roads. Although students are not building and programming drones at this time, this will become a reality in the near future thanks to the STEM Fab Lab/Maker Space students. The department hopes to expand this to other campuses throughout the district.

For now, these are just some of the things going on in the Engineering and Technology department. Many new projects, such as Lucid Motors and Drone technology, are providing new opportunities for CAC and our students. “It’s exciting to be involved with this,” expressed Prof. Benedict. Despite its outward appearance, this department has a lot of hidden gems. This just shows that things are not always as they seem.