CC students wow crowd with STEM Capstone Projects

student Blake Wiley with capstone project

CC student Blake Wiley shows off the radio controlled glider that will be launched to the edge of space in July 2014

This past May students throughout Centralia College came together to present projects and research undertaken at the college’s second annual Capstone Project Presentation. With guidance from professors and instructors, students presented their work to the college and public, and by every account those in attendance were truly impressed by the level of work performed.

One such project from electronics and robotics students provided a local international manufacturing company, Pace Edwards, with a feasibility study for converting part of their manual manufacturing line to robotics manufacturing. Another group of students may have discovered a previously unknown sub-species of fish. And yet another group from the Centralia College Science Club hand-built a helicopter drone and a radio-controlled glider that will be launched 90,000 feet to the edge of space this July.

Spearheading the effort to bring Capstone Project Presentations to Centralia College is assistant professor of chemistry Karen Goodwin. She quickly garnered faculty support to allow students to conduct advanced research and work in a litany of fields, including botany, geology, chemistry, electronics and robotics, environmental studies, and more.

Goodwin says it gives Centralia College students the chance to begin work at the university level, helps prepare them for work they’ll do later in their academic careers, and allows them to stand out in their fields of study and careers of choice.

“The purpose of the Capstone Project Presentation day is to give the students at Centralia College a venue to present their research and projects in a public forum. This is how scientific work is presented at the university level, and having this opportunity early in their academic careers will certainly be a great benefit to our students. I am amazed at how the event has grown in just two years, and the quality of work our students have produced is truly impressive!”

For more information about Capstone Projects and STEM education see STEM at Centralia College or contact assistant professor of chemistry Karen Goodwin at

Robots for kids

robots and kids

Robots and kids, June 2014

Simple robotic arms are doing powerful things for children in the Centralia College Child and Family Studies preschool and pre-kindergarten classes.

The robotic arms were rebuilt and repurposed by members of the Centralia College Electronics Club, who volunteered their time and financial resources to transform obsolete pieces into fun, educational toys for children.

“It was a big team effort by the club and everyone really got behind the project,” said Clayton Maines, Centralia College Electronics Club vice president and lead on the project. “The exciting part was seeing the look on the kids’ faces when we delivered them. They were so excited to be able to play with real robots.”

The robotic arms were presented to the preschool classrooms on June 11, 2014 and will allow children as young as three a chance to explore basic robotic technology. By coordinating numbers on the control panels with corresponding arm movements, such as bending and rotating to pick up objects, the children enhance their hand-eye coordination and counting skills, all while having fun.

“The results were a huge success and the children couldn’t have been more excited,” said Cristi Heitschmidt, associate dean of Child and Family Studies (CFS). “Some even mastered the somewhat complex movements within a short period of time. We are truly grateful for the Electronics Club students and all of the hard work they put in to make this happen.”

For more information about the electronics program, see the Electronics, Robotics, and Automation program website, or contact David Peterson at

For more information about CFS, see the Child and Family Studies program website, or contact Cristi Heitschmidt at


J.R. Siperly takes the stage for leadership development

J.R. Siperly

J.R. Siperly, ASCC President

J.R. Siperly has a strong work ethic and a passion for community, traits he acquired from his adoptive parents Bruce and Sandra Siperly. He is an Eagle Scout and served three terms as senior patrol leader. He also served as student body president his senior year at Adna High School, where he founded the “Battle of the Schools” food drive competition between Adna and Napavine, now in its third year.

Siperly chose Centralia College because of the leadership opportunities available. He wasted no time making his mark, running for and being elected student body president. He is engaging his leadership skills to bring new computers to the Veterans Center, new computer monitors to the Writing Center, and he is working to name the Kiser Natural Outdoor Learning Lab (KNOLL) footbridge in honor of Russ Mohney, former Centralia College employee, author, and “peasant naturalist” who passedl away in 2010.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve done and grateful for the opportunities that being student body president provides,” Siperly said. “It’s a lot of hard work and I’m learning a lot. I could not have accomplished nearly as much without the support of my parents and Shelley Bannish (director of Student Life and Involvement Center).”

Siperly didn’t have an easy start in life. His biological parents suffered with addiction, bringing on health problems for Siperly as an infant, which led to learning difficulties as he grew up. He was placed in special education classes but with the support of his parents and his teachers he overcame these difficulties and entered mainstream classes by the time he entered eighth grade.

“I always struggled with math, but my teachers looked for creative ways to help me,” Siperly said. “Professor (Roberta) Ziegler (math) at the college has that easy going nature that helps me to relax and I’m able to do better on tests.”

Siperly also credits his success to the support he has received from many other teachers along the way and to the unconditional love and support of his parents.

Siperly has been re-elected to the office of president of the Associated Students of Centralia College (ASCC) student government for the 2014-15 college year.

“My parents are the driving force to my success at college and in life,” Siperly said. “They are always in my corner and have made me the person I am today. I will always be grateful for the life they’ve given me.”

Local couple turn to BASM for career growth

Chris and Doreen Dickinson

Chris and Doreen Dickinson

Chris Dickinson retired from the U.S. Navy where he served as a nuclear mechanic operator. He turned his military experience into a career at TransAlta as a water systems supervisor. This may be a solid career for many but Dickinson is looking for more.

He and his wife Doreen have a six-year-old daughter, Alyssa. He knew that if he wanted to advance and to afford a better life for his family, a bachelor’s degree could make a big difference.

The Centralia College Bachelor of Applied Science in Management (BASM) degree presented the path to get him what he wanted. The program, in a hybrid format, is structured so he can keep his job, earn a quality degree, and not have to relocate with his family. He enrolled in the first class cohort in 2012 and, along with 25 classmates, will receive his bachelor’s degree this June.

“Even though I have had to schedule time for homework, taking classes two evenings a week with the rest of the course work online is very family friendly,” Dickinson said.

While the bachelor’s degree program was structured to his liking, tuition expenses needed to be addressed. Dickinson was able to tap into TransAlta’s tuition assistance program, he found financial aid support he was able to tap into, and he landed a scholarship.

But there’s another half to this story….

His wife, Doreen, had suffered a life-threatening injury when she was thrown from a horse in 2001. She overcame her injuries and during her recovery she began to think about her future and the role of education.

She turned to Centralia College and its nursing program.

She was taking classes to become a nurse but then changed focus. She earned her associate degree in 2012, and with encouragement from Chris, entered the BASM program in fall 2013.

“Chris knew the program would be a good fit for me,” Doreen said. “I still face challenges from my accident, but everyone is so supportive.”

And the move into BASM has already paid dividends.

“Being in the program gave me the confidence I needed to apply for a new job, and now because of BASM, I have a much better job,” Doreen said. She moved from working as a pharmacy technician into a position with the law firm of Olson, Althauser, Samuelson, & Rayan, LLP.

“We knew that choosing a BASM student would be a good idea, and we’ll certainly do it again,” attorney and law partner Todd Rayan said. “BASM students are educated and hardworking.”

The future of the BASM couple looks bright. Chris, with encouragement from the college BASM faculty, is considering continuing toward his master’s in business or going on to law school.

The two have turned education into a family affair and likely will find a way to turn their education into new careers.

Quinsee Amburgy knows what she wants

Quinsee Amburgy

Quinsee Amburgy

Quinsee Amburgy knows what she wants to do with her life. Her goal is to become a nurse and she now plans to apply for the Centralia College nursing program.

Choosing Centralia College also made financial sense for Amburgy and her family. Tuition at Centralia College did not increase last year and will not increase for the coming college year, making Centralia College a top educational value. The money she is saving by attending here will provide financial resources for the higher tuition rates at a transfer institution.

“By living with my parents while I go to school, not only do we save on tuition, we save on room and board,” Amburgy said. “Besides, the nursing program at the college has a great reputation.”

Amburgy recently expanded her educational goals to include psychology after taking a psychology class this winter taught by Atara MacNamara, associate professor of psychology.

“Professor MacNamara is passionate about her subject,” Amburgy said. “She makes learning easy, and nurses often use psychology when helping children with disease and injury.”

Amburgy didn’t choose nursing as a career lightly, and her interest in psychology is no accident. She began suffering severe hip and joint pain while playing soccer in high school. After many tests, doctors discovered that Amburgy has a rare congenital disorder called Arkless-Graham syndrome. This painful disorder causes her joints to fuse together over time, particularly in her hands, feet, and hips.

“I feel like I can make a real difference with children who are in similar situations,” Amburgy said. “The nurses helped me learn to cope with my disorder and I want to do the same for someone else.”

There is a distinct possibility that, because of her disorder, Amburgy may one day be in a wheelchair, but she is determined to not let it stop her from becoming a nurse and feels that the college is supportive of her goals.

“My instructors have been great, especially Professor MacNamara and Jeff McQuarrie (assistant professor of speech),” Amburgy said. “I take good care of myself and I don’t dwell on it, besides; I have too much to do to let anything get in my way.”

Molly McIntyre finds support at Centralia College

Molly McIntyre

Molly McIntyre

Many basketball fans know Molly McIntyre as a standout forward on the Centralia College Lady Blazers basketball squad. She also has a life off the court.

McIntyre, a first-year student, plans to major in psychology and earn her associate degree before moving on to a four-year college closer to her hometown of Spokane. She was recruited to play basketball for the Blazers, applied for and received a scholarship. The financial support made the difference in her coming to Centralia College and really made a difference in being able to work toward her career goals.

“The scholarship has really helped my family,” McIntyre said. It’s helping to make her college education possible.

As a first-year Centralia College student, McIntyre said she appreciates her experiences and the attitude students have toward getting involved in college life.

“I enjoy the college,” she said. I like that students and especially the student-athletes are so supportive of each other. It was great to see so many students at our games,” said McIntyre.

And the high level of support goes beyond that.

“Teachers are really friendly. They make a point to stop and talk,” she said. They care about each student. “I really appreciate how faculty helped me work around my sports schedule with my class work.”

The bottom line is that Centralia College is helping McIntyre as she works toward her goals and supporting her as she succeeds on and off the basketball court.