College-NOW Opens Opportunities
Mason Beam is part of the College-NOW engineering program. College-NOW is a two-year program that allows high school juniors to enter North Central State and Pioneer Career and Technology Center on a track to receiving their associate degree in conjunction with their high school diploma.
Beam is in his final year of the program and explains why he decided to begin his college education early. “Being from Lucas, this was an easy decision to come to North Central State,” Beam says. “I will be able to get my associate degree at the same time I also receive my high school diploma and not have to travel too far from home. The cost of tuition is less than a four-year university but with the same quality of education.”
College-NOW students are exposed to real-life problem-based learning opportunities provided by business partners. Beam is currently working on his capstone project, along with his classmates. Each team is building an electric vehicle that will be tested on the road with the Kehoe Grand Prix. Students began researching and designing their vehicles, including frame, steering, braking, gearing, power, and drive options.
The Kehoe Grand Prix is in its fourth year and is designed as an endurance race with a one-hour time limit. Each team’s vehicle, driven by team members, navigates a five-turn circuit laid out in the parking lot of the Kehoe Center.
“A big part of this class is project management and learning how to work with a team,” Beam says. “We are all making these cars and working with a team designing, producing, and manufacturing. All of those things we are going to be doing on the job one day. It is a very similar process to what I will eventually do for my career.”
Mike Beebe, assistant professor of engineering, says the projects students work on in the College-NOW program are preparing them for their future careers daily. “The whole process teaches them engineering as well as inventing the designs they will use for their projects,” Beebe says. “In 16 weeks the students go from a blank sheet of paper to a complete vehicle to race.”
Another skill Beam has learned in the College-NOW program while building his motorized vehicle is how to utilize a 3D printer.
“We use the lab’s printer for any special parts that are expensive,” Beam explains. “We like to 3D print them and it gives us the freedom of design. You can design any part you want and print it on the printer.”
“A lot of companies are migrating towards 3D printers,” Beam says. “For any company using plastic or Polylactic acid (PLAs), this is the way to go. They are less expensive and quick. You can make any part that’s feasible to print.”
Beebe adds the program allows students to learn more than just math. “It’s all those skills together that the instructors are trying to have the students put together. The program allows students to weld and drill holes all while understanding the math and science behind it. Students are having fun while learning advanced concepts about the engineering process.”
After College-NOW, Beam plans on staying at North Central State and continuing with the Mechanical Engineering Technology (BASMET) bachelor’s program. BASMET is the advanced practical application of engineering and scientific principles to design and manufacture quality products and systems.
The program utilizes project-based learning to provide students working individually and in teams, with hands-on learning. Additionally, training in innovative computer software is complemented with instruction in mathematics, science, and engineering analysis to provide our graduates with a solid foundation for the implementation of design and manufacturing solutions. Graduates of the (BASMET) program are prepared to compete in a competitive job market and assume a wide range of responsibilities in the industry.
Darcy Carns, College-NOW program director, says the College-NOW program is a perfect introduction to the bachelor’s program. “With the addition of our bachelor’s program a couple of years ago, it has become a very popular route for our students. They can graduate from the College-NOW program, earning their associate degree in integrated engineering technology, and then they can continue very seamlessly into our bachelor’s program in which they earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology with just two additional years,” Carns explains. “I have had students graduate with their bachelor’s degree at the age of 20 with very little debt.”