Michael DiMartino and Kevin Perez are doing that as students in Tidewater Community College’s electronics technology program.
“Ohm’s Law is Ohm’s Law,” DiMartino said. “You can learn here at a third of the cost of those big-name schools.”
Here is the $4 million, fully integrated electronics lab in the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) on TCC’s Virginia Beach Campus, home to some of the most advanced electronics equipment and software in the nation. The lab includes 42 stations interfaced with computers and four source measurement units, which allow students to experiment with voltage and current. Multisource scopes, which are reminiscent of smartphones, should be in the lab by spring.
Credit program head Al Koon for ensuring TCC has the latest and greatest in electronics technology. Koon started at the college in 1978 when the program had nothing but borrowed equipment. He has since tirelessly worked on grant after grant with leaders from Penn State, Educational Testing Service, Center for Occupational Research and Massachusetts think tank Concord Consortium among others to make TCC a respected national leader in this field. Thirty states and 13 countries use software developed by TCC.
“Every time someone from another school visits our lab, they are impressed,” he said. “They want our hand-me-down equipment.”
The 65-credit Associate of Applied Science in Electronics Technology, with an accelerated option offered for transitioning military, allows graduates to find work as instrument and relay techs at companies that include Virginia Dominion Power, Virginia International Terminals, Virginia Natural Gas and Jefferson Labs. Graduates who wish to extend their studies find all of their credits transfer to Old Dominion University, leaving them 58 credits away from a bachelor’s in engineering.
Koon is eager for students to use multisource scopes, which are reminiscent of smartphones. They should be in the lab by spring.
Companies including Dominion often pay for students to work toward their bachelor’s and even that can all be done next door to the ATC at the Old Dominion Virginia Beach Center.
“Everything you need for your bachelor’s is offered Tuesday nights,” Koon said.
Math lovers will thrive in Electronics Technology, but students without the necessary background can get there with TCC’s remedial math classes. While the college’s engineering program stresses theory and science, students in Electronics Technology are hands-on, with labs supplementing every electronics requirement. Even the math component focuses on applying math to real-world projects.
“We have seven classes in electronics and seven labs in electronics,” Koon said. “Our thing is whatever we design, we have to make it work. What works on paper doesn’t always work in the real world.”
Koon, a graduate of the program himself, considers the students his own kids and provides one-on-one support during labs. Instructor Dawn Silverman, a May graduate of the program, said he is not only approachable, “He’s a human calculator.”
Koon was TCC’s inaugural Professor of the Year in 2001.
DiMartino and Perez both plan to transfer after they graduate, but like knowing they have the option of finding immediate employment.
“Sometimes it’s tedious work, but I always like it when I finish,” DiMartino said. “And I love that when I leave here, I’ll be able to work.”