Engineering Technology enrollment nearly double expectations

TRAVERSE CITY — Student enrollment in Northwestern Michigan College’s new unmanned systems and robotics program exceeded expectations with a near doubling of the planned enrollment this first semester.

Earlier this year NMC introduced a new program specializing in unmanned systems and robotics. Students can earn an associate degree in Engineering Technology with a specialization in one of seven high tech fields: Automation & Robotics Technology, Computer Technology, Electronics, Photonics, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Marine Technology and Unmanned Ground Vehicles.

NMC is one of the few colleges in the nation offering a degree path in all three unmanned areas: aerial, ground and marine. Nearly 50 students enrolled in the program this fall. Projections had called for 25, said Ed Bailey, director of NMC’s Technical Division.

“I think the spike in enrollment is really tied to the uniqueness of the program,” Bailey said. “With the upturn in employment opportunities and interest in this field, it represents great opportunity for our students.”

NMC’s Aviation Division has offered courses in Unmanned Aerial Systems for several years, while NMC’s Great Lakes Water Studies Institute utilizes an underwater ROV in its Freshwater Studies program. The new program takes advantage of those existing courses and equipment and adds ground systems, electronics and robotics to the curriculum.

Unmanned ground applications are primarily utilized in agriculture, which Bailey said is a “perfect fit for our region.” Marine applications are primarily in the petroleum industry and associated with environmental monitoring. Aerial applications presently are focused on agriculture and inspections. Unmanned systems can be utilized on most applications that are tied to safety, conditions unsuitable to humans (deep water) and requiring long duration, Bailey said.

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) projects the field to grow by 100,000 jobs over the next ten years, with 80 percent of the growth expected in agriculture.

For the robotics courses, students utilize a new “Makers Bay” space in the Aero Park Laboratories, a hands-on project workspace with the tools for students to tackle anything from a building a ROV to integrating tracking technology into golf balls.

Release date: September 23, 2013

For more information:

Ed Bailey
Technical Division director
(231) 995-1215