The tradition of learning through presentations to professionals continued during
Ferris State University’s Spring 2020 semester. Ferris Manufacturing Engineering Technology
students made their pitch to engineers from Amerikam, in Grand Rapids, and their faculty,
by virtual means, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
School of Design and Manufacturing Director Mark Dunneback said their traditional program with the manufacturer would include a factory tour and pizza lunch. The Zoom communications platform replaced the programs he had taught during the previous six years.
“Our 324 class students have been following this instructional path through Amerikam for more than 40 years,” Dunneback said. “It serves as a gateway to their internship opportunities, with some of our students receiving greater career exposure through the manufacturer, as well as employment.”
Dunneback said Associate Professor Nathan Leatherman was the lead class instructor and one of the judges for this year’s presentations.
“He did a great job accomplishing the goals for this program and learning,” Dunneback said. “It called for our students and instructors to adjust quickly in a developing situation, which is very much the kind of situation our graduates face in their careers.”
Leatherman said, in some respects, his students gained unique and valuable experience by taking their presentations onto this virtual platform.
“A great deal more online research was required, as our students could not machine parts, or put equipment to use in developing their pitch,” Leatherman said. “I put my family into service, so we could provide measurements for the students’ use. We were able to make these presentations on time, with only slight adjustments to our regular format.”
Leatherman assessed the necessary alterations to their class and program as a “different experience.”
“It did not diminish the value of the learning that our students received,” Leatherman said. “While they did not take up the exercises in the laboratory they would traditionally gain, they acquired credible skills in project management and flexibility as team members that will translate well for them in their careers.”
One judge from Amerikam has unique experience as a former presenter. Quality manager Manuel Vazquez is a 2011 graduate of the Manufacturing Engineering Technology program.
“It was definitely a different experience, both for the students and ourselves,” Vazquez said. “I went through this exercise, with the professionals commenting and questioning our work. I feel the students may have been spared some tension, with no face-to-face presentation required, though we asked appropriate questions and took a critical view of their work.”
Vazquez said Amerikam staff look forward to each year’s presentation by the Ferris Manufacturing Engineering Technology students.
“It is an important, real-life exercise,” Vazquez said. “From my personal experience, it provided the ability to put what we learned in the classroom to use, and to speak with professionals about our efforts. It showed us how to put our learning to use, along with presenting our selves as professionals and putting those skills to use in the field.”
Teams of four or five 324 class students made 40-minute presentations on their product, a brass plunger housing to three Amerikam staffers and four Manufacturing Engineering Technology faculty members. The winning team included Brandon Docter, of Hudsonville; Austin Garza, of Sand Lake; Grant Joslin, of Hastings; and Ethan Wagner, of Lake City.
Amerikam President and Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Leonardos made a $500 donation in the name of the winning team to Ferris’ Student Hardship Fund, which was created to support students’ affected by COVID-19 during the Spring 2020 semester.
“The program is a great way for young engineering students prepare to enter their careers,” Vazquez said. “We will depend on these students as peers and contributors, and we want to help them succeed.”