David Peterson, the college’s youngest Electronics, Robotics, and Automation (ERA) faculty member, is taking the college’s program to new heights. Literally.
Peterson helped mastermind the successful launch of the college’s physics and electronics clubs’ near space vehicle this past July. Students were able to launch and retrieve the vehicle, carrying data recording equipment. The vehicle, a specialized weather balloon, reached 90,000 feet. Retrieval was handled with the aid of an onboard GPS device. (See Physics & Electronics students launch near space vehicle)
“We have big plans for next year’s launch,” Peterson said. “Instead of a parachute, we’ll have a radio controlled glider taking live video as we control the descent.”
This type of activity reflects Peterson’s passion for his work as an ERA instructor and his desire to get students involved in meaningful activities.
One of the big challenges he faces in teaching is the constant change in technology. It’s estimated that the average cell phone today has 64 times more computing capability available in the computers that first sent man to the moon. And with advancements in and use of technology in everything from computers to cars, it’s estimated that technology now doubles every two years.
Training students in the basics and helping them deal with change are strengths of the program, and delivering skilled electronics techs is the reason why the Centralia College ERA program boasts of a 100 percent hire rate for last June’s graduates.
This success rate is almost routine for ERA graduates, prime targets of companies such as Intel and Honeywell.
And Peterson is pushing students into worlds where electronics and robotics thrive. His office has several “robotic devices” controlled by his computer. Those devices sit around the electronics lab waiting for students to make them work. These are basic to the future of the program and the working world.
Peterson, while the newest ERA instructor, is not new to the college.
As a Running Start student, he was the 2007/08 Associated Students president. After graduation he earned his bachelor degree in mechanical engineering from Washington State University-Vancouver, and now plans to earn a master’s degree.
Because of his drive and desire for student success, Peterson, now 24, is one of the youngest instructors to be accepted to tenure track at Centralia College. He is quickly building on an already solid electronics program.
“The ERA program requires me to constantly learn new things and keep up on new technology,” Peterson said. “I try to teach to the future so that students are ahead of their peers when they enter the workforce.”
Peterson also works to bring electronics and robotics to the community by helping to advise robotics clubs at the middle school and high school levels. He is also responsible for starting last year’s robotics competition at the college.
“I wanted local kids to have the experience of a robotics competition without the high cost of the national competitions,” Peterson said. “Technology is where the industry is headed and I wanted them to have the chance to see this first hand.”
In addition to his other community involvement, Peterson also works with the local economic development committee to help bring high-tech industries to the area.
“With my connections and understanding of the industry, I hope to help the committee attract sustainable living-wage jobs to the area,” Peterson said.
See the Electronics Robotics Automation program website for more information.