THE ELECTRONIC CONNECTION:Arcs and Sparks Lead to Careers

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The invention of the transistor in 1947 paved the way for the dazzling array of electronic devices that now enhance our daily lives. Today, we are dependent on electronics for virtually everything we do.

Automobiles, cell phones, microwaves, flat-screen TVs, and of course, personal computers are all around us. We have become accustomed to their presence and persistence in our daily lives.

Here in West Virginia, electronics goes deep—literally. The mining industry is a heavy user of electronics. Specialized computers, called programmable logic controllers, are imbedded in mining machinery, coal preparation plants and railcar loading systems. The chemical industry is dependent on electronic control systems for safety and productivity. Steel production is a vast user of electric power, often in megawatt quantities. But, behind that power is a network of microelectronic circuits that ensure product quality, productivity and safety. Local plants that produce spark plugs, oxygen sensors and automotive ignition coils could not exist without the electronic systems that run the production lines.

Working with Electronics 

Where there is electronics, there must also be workers who understand how the devices and systems operate. They must be capable of finding and fixing problems and keeping the equipment up and running.

Those workers are electronics technicians. The work is physical and hands-on. Most of the work day is spent in a manufacturing plant or in the field, installing, repairing or adjusting equipment. Success requires strong analytical skills and the ability to communicate with both technical and non-technical people.

You work on the big stuff—not cell phones or laptops, not TVs or microwaves. Think large equipment, manufacturing lines, chemical plants and coal mines. Utility companies, water treatment facilities, oil and gas extraction and distribution are also potential workplaces within West Virginia.

The Associate of Applied Science degree in Electronics Technology at Mountwest prepares students for entry-level employment in any industry that uses electronic systems. The two-year course of study provides a solid foundation in circuit analysis and troubleshooting, analog and digital electronic devices, microprocessor applications and programming. Students begin with a course that teaches the fundamental electrical laws and progress through additional courses and more complex topics.

As a student, to become capable with the big stuff, you start with the small stuff:  resistors, capacitors, inductors, transistors, diodes and operational amplifiers. These are the tiny internal components that make up all the larger complex devices. You study them in detail, learn to analyze their performance and know them well.

Without this detailed knowledge, your ability in the field is limited. Every technical course has a companion class that is a hands-on laboratory. From scratch, you build circuits that work, and you get to see first-hand that they perform just like the theory says. Sometimes, though, there are mistakes. In lab, things can fail with arcs and sparks, and a bit of smoke; you damage a part and your circuit no longer works.

Janice Boyd, a third semester student from Chesapeake, Ohio, commenting on the Mountwest electronics program said, “The labs are the most valuable aspect of the electronics coursework. Computer simulations seem like video games, but with hands-on labs, getting a circuit to produce the expected outcome brings a sense of accomplishment. Even failures in the lab enhance the learning.”

The Electronics Technology degree at Mountwest is a general purpose program. It does not focus on a specific industry. By remaining generic, it provides the graduate with a wide range of career opportunities. With the degree, you have basic knowledge to build upon and later specialize within the field you choose. Mountwest grads go in a multitude of career directions.

A special feature of the Mountwest program is a one-semester internship that provides the student with 160 hours of direct work in a manufacturing facility. The internship builds on the classroom studies and gives the student a look at real life within the career.

Students of all ages and backgrounds will find electronics technology to be a rewarding career. Whether you are about to complete high school or are moving forward from a prior career, stop by Mountwest’s campus or visit the programs of study section of our website to check out this exciting opportunity.

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