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NICC_mechanicalTry Mechanical Engineering Technology!

Even a rebounding economy can create new challenges for local employers.

As productivity increases to meet rising market demand, manufacturing employers in northeast Iowa are scrambling to find qualified mechanical engineering technicians. These personnel work alongside engineers and assist in product design and quality control testing. Technicians also help to manage heavy workloads for engineers and manufacturers.

Northeast Iowa Community College’s (NICC) Mechanical Engineering Technology program at the Peosta campus is designed to meet local manufacturers’ skilled-employee needs and offer graduates a rewarding, high-paying career. NICC is preparing students for plentiful, local engineering technology careers that are changing along with the times, technological advancement and the particular needs of local industry.

“Engineering technology is changing very rapidly, and there is not a current module to train people. We are literally rewriting the book,” explained Bill Byrd, Mechanical Engineering Technology instructor. “This program is really starting to address the issues in the local job market and the skilled needs employers have, such as quality, actuation systems and robotic systems, as well as traditional needs for drafters and designers.”

As part of the second year of their program, students work as interns for a variety of manufacturing firms, which have included Mi-T-M Corporation in Peosta, Lancaster (Wis.) Tools, ProPulse in Peosta and Uelner Tool & Die in Dubuque, to name a few.

On Oct. 14, the Mechanical Engineering Technology program showcased its new Additive Advanced Manufacturing Prototype (AAMP) Lab to the community. The lab features robotic operating systems software, state-of-the-art modeling and design tools, and advanced 3-D printing technology that is used in the development of prototype parts in manufacturing.

According to EMSI, Inc., the estimated salary range for mechanical engineering technicians in the NICC district is $33,529 – $64,313, and the occupation has a 8.22 percent annual growth rate through 2020.

A National Science Foundation MentorLinks grant of $20,000 provided initial support for the new program and its curriculum development in 2013, and an additional $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program provided funding for faculty hiring, equipment and supplies purchases.

Want to begin a career in mechanical engineering technology? Visit www.nicc.edu/mechanicalengineering to learn more!


The newest instructor at Northeast Iowa Community College’s (NICC) Peosta campus is attracting lots of interest.

He has two long metal arms coated in red with black joints, weighs 165 pounds, contains three built-in cameras and can be programmed with a laptop computer. His name is “Baxter,” and he is a research robot utilized by the College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology students.

“We currently use Baxter to do demonstrations, and students are continuing to work on programming assignments for the robot. Baxter operates with Intera 3 production software and functions through Robot Operating System (ROS),” said Bill Byrd, Mechanical Engineering Technology instructor.

NICC students are learning to program Baxter to perform movements, such as moving his arms, picking up an item on a table or even hugging children, as the robot demonstrated at the Dubuque Family STEM Festival at Clarke University in Dubuque last spring.

In August, Baxter greeted a U.S. congressional delegation from Washington, D.C., by waving and welcoming visitors to the new Additive Advanced Manufacturing Prototype (AAMP) Lab at the NICC Peosta campus.

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