Kraig Holler, Bill MacKeigan, Sherry Washington and Mara Rice are thriving students and graduates of Lorain County Community College’s microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and microelectronics technology program. During their coursework, students like them get a chance to immerse in exciting real world projects with paid internships at local companies.
Holler, 24, of Lorain, has found success on his path to May graduation. He held two internships while going to LCCC full time. After graduating last year with an associate of arts degree, he became interested in pursuing the MEMS program after hearing about it from an advisor.
“I took the intro class and found it fascinating,” Holler said. “The program isn’t something you can generally get just anywhere. The MEMS program is very unique in and of itself.”
As a student, Holler has already engrossed himself in his field. He not only works as an independent contractor at SMART Microsystems as an Engineering Technician, but he also works as a manufacturing intern at NanoBio Systems, a company in the Desich Entrepreneurship Center business incubator that creates and tests biosensors. NanoBio Systems seeks to change healthcare standards by developing non-invasive devices that correlate saliva biomarker levels to disease diagnosis. Additionally, Holler performs lab work and analysis for the company. At SMART Microsystems he performs inspections, sets up test equipment and performs environmental testing.
Holler attributes some of his success to the quality of instructors in the LCCC MEMS program. “Johnny Vanderford is very active in helping students find positions with companies around the state,” he said.
Vanderford, LCCC professor of microelectronics and MEMS engineering, explained that local industry is interested in students with experience in LCCC’s new Training and Recruitment Accelerated Innovation Network of Ohio (TRAIN OH) program. “This includes earning an associate degree in MEMS, a rapidly growing field of microelectronic technology,” Vandeford said.
In TRAIN OH, students get hands-on experience in a paid internship, which begins by their third semester, with 24 hours or more of work a week in addition to classes.
MacKeigan, 58, also found achievement in MEMS through TRAIN OH. Like Holler, MacKeigan is scheduled to graduate with an associate degree in MEMS this spring after completing his coursework and work-based learning.
As a MEMS student and Lodi resident, he is completing his second internship at RBB in Wooster, a company that manufacturers printed circuit boards. He also works in surface mount technology with TRAIN OH. RBB supported the pilot launch of TRAIN OH, which is funded by NextFlex (a flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing institute in San Jose, California) and it is one of the eight founding members of the MEMS advisory committee. Working at a local company as part of the program gives him and other students a chance to make connections in the Cleveland-area MEMS workforce.
In MacKeigan’s capstone project students design and build a fully functional working circuit. “It has been challenging so far, but I’m working through it just like my fellow classmates,” he said. “With as frustrating as it can be, it’s still been a lot of fun.”
For MacKeigan, this is not his first career. He is also a U.S. Army veteran and a retired Elyria postal service letter carrier.
When looking for a new trade, he learned about the degree program and knew it was an up and coming industry. “The instructor, Johnny Vanderford, was very enthusiastic about the program and got me hooked,” he said.
MacKeigan said “LCCC seemed to give me the most bang for my buck, as well as it was close to my home.” Through class he became certified by the Association Connecting Electronic Industries in how to solder, a credential that can be very appealing to future employers.
Another student, Lorain resident Sheradowa (Sherry) Washington, 44, was a full-time mom for more than 20 years when her life circumstances changed and she wanted to start a new career. She knew that her positive attitude would take her far with a MEMS degree from LCCC.
Like others, she was mesmerized by Vanderford’s informational session and knew the program was the right fit. Her previous work at NASA taught her “failure is not an option,” she said. She also was familiar with clean rooms from her time there and welcomed the experience again in the MEMS program.
Washington likes that the MEMS work is hands-on and involves trial and error. From her life experience she’s learned that a mix of hands-on and traditional learning is perfect for her.
LCCC graduate Mara Rice is a shining example of how Lorain County Community College prepares students to further their education beyond an associate degree. Rice, 29, earned her degree in mechatronics in 2015. Today she is looking forward to graduating in May with a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Cleveland State University. She attributes her academic and career advancement to the stimulating mechatronics coursework and a hands-on internship she attained through the MEMS & Microelectronics program.
Rice has been working at SMART Microsystems for more than three years. She started as a student intern, and is now an engineering technician. There she manages projects, operates tools and interfaces with customers. Rice hopes to transition into a project engineer role once her engineering degree is complete.
“LCCC and the teachers in the mechatronics program revitalized my love for learning,” Rice said. She was accepted into the Monte Ahuja College of Business and is in the process of applying to Cleveland Marshal Law, both CSU graduate schools. She hopes to earn a dual master of business administration and a juris doctor.
About the MEMS program
LCCC students have the option of pursuing an associate degree, one-year technical certificate or short-term technical certificate.
To learn about LCCC’s associate degree in MEMS and Microelectronic Engineering, visit www.lorainccc.edu/mems.
For more information about the program, contact Professor Johnny Vanderford at (440) 366-4206 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the MEMS program
LCCC students have the option of pursuing an associate degree, one-year technical certificate or short-term technical certificate. The MEMS degree allows students to pursue their new career working as an engineering technician, operator or lab technician or work toward a bachelor’s degree in engineering or science. Vanderford said he ensures the curriculum is infused with lessons that align with current local industry needs and all students are required to complete at least 300 hours of an internship to graduate.
MEMs students ultimately engage in work with electronic components, sensors, mechanical actuators and structures that are built on a micro and sub-micro scale. Students enrolled in coursework gain experience and training while working at the operator level in a class 10,000 cleanroom located at the college utilizing materials, equipment, protocols and processes related to the microelectronics industry. Classes are small with one-on-one trainer-to-student interactions and industry-related networking opportunities are presented throughout the associate degree. Additional classes in the degree include circuits, 2D computer aided drafting (CAD), SolidWorks 3D drafting and IPC soldering.
To learn about LCCC’s MEMS and Microelectronic Engineering program attend one of these information sessions:
• 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 31
• 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 21
To register for a session, visit www.lorainccc.edu/mems.
For more information about the program, contact Professor Johnny Vanderford at (440) 366-4206 or