Mobile Engineering Technology Lab at FCG Offers “hands-on, minds-on” Training

Who among us can deny a lab-on-wheels is a neat idea? It’s a breakthrough concept that has fired up the curiosity of many students pursuing an engineering technology (ET) degree at Florida Gateway College (FGC) in Lake City, FL. The mobile ET lab, the brainchild of Bob Deckon, director of the ET program at FCG, is a state-of-the-art facility that offers hands-on, minds-on education and training, and is probably the first of its kind in the state, or perhaps even the country.

This lab on wheels is housed within a 52 ft. triple axel trailer, and holds eight Hampden Technical Training Systems, two Nida model 130 electronic training consoles with individual circuit boards, has two fluid power trainers (hydraulic on one side and pneumatic on the other), a four loop instrumentation & process control trainer, a three-loop instrumentation and process control trainer, and two PLC trainers. Deckon points to these technical training systems as educational tools that enable students to “transition from traditional printed classroom material to a dynamic hands-on approach to ‘involvement’ training.” The trainers are specifically tailored to every level of complexity, and reinforce classroom learning through a series of hands-on projects that permit students to isolate a particular component and/or system and focus on its operation and usage.

True to its mettle, the trailer can transport each of the training systems anywhere within the five county (Columbia, Baker, Union, Gilchrist and Dixie) service area, where they can easily be rolled off the back into a classroom or training facility. The lab can also function as a stand-alone mobile classroom, equipped with its own on-board generator, air compressor, HVAC system and complete video system. One full side of the trailer can be opened up to expand the viewing area and create an open classroom.

The main idea, according to Deckon, is to have the ability to reach out to any school, or create and deliver customized training to improve the skills-set of current employees of any company/organization. To that effect, the lab has served as an important instructional tool and extension of the ET core curriculum, and played an integral role incorporating practical, hands-on projects that have expanded students’ theoretical/practical knowledge base.

Use of NIDA trainers in the introduction to electronics course has yielded tremendous success. Looking to the future, the program is looking to incorporate use of process control trainer into the manufacturing materials and processes, as well as mechanical measurement and instrumentation courses, and expand the advanced manufacturing curriculum through use of other trainers in the motors and controls, hydraulics and pneumatics, PLC’s and process controls courses. Its aptitude for flexible onsite training has also extended its services to a wide audience. Since September 2009, Deckon has hosted tours for seven high schools in Columbia and Gilchrist counties, with plans to take the mobile lab and use the hydraulics and pneumatics trainers to supplement the ag-mechanics classroom instruction at Fort White High School. Several tours and demos of the lab have also been conducted for local college students, faculty/instructors, members of the local ET advisory committee, College Board of Trustees, as well as local companies and technical schools.

For information on FCG’s mobile engineering technology lab contact Bob Deckon at robert.deckon@fgc.edu/386.754.4442, or visit www.engineeringtechprogram.com/MobileLab. For information FLATE’s statewide engineering technology degree contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org/813.259.6578.