Category Archives: Winter 2014

Former student now teaches energized robotics program

David Peterson

David Peterson

David Peterson, the college’s youngest Electronics, Robotics, and Automation (ERA) faculty member, is taking the college’s program to new heights. Literally.

Peterson helped mastermind the successful launch of the college’s physics and electronics clubs’ near space vehicle this past July. Students were able to launch and retrieve the vehicle, carrying data recording equipment. The vehicle, a specialized weather balloon, reached 90,000 feet. Retrieval was handled with the aid of an onboard GPS device. (See Physics & Electronics students launch near space vehicle)

“We have big plans for next year’s launch,” Peterson said. “Instead of a parachute, we’ll have a radio controlled glider taking live video as we control the descent.”

This type of activity reflects Peterson’s passion for his work as an ERA instructor and his desire to get students involved in meaningful activities.

One of the big challenges he faces in teaching is the constant change in technology. It’s estimated that the average cell phone today has 64 times more computing capability available in the computers that first sent man to the moon. And with advancements in and use of technology in everything from computers to cars, it’s estimated that technology now doubles every two years.

Training students in the basics and helping them deal with change are strengths of the program, and delivering skilled electronics techs is the reason why the Centralia College ERA program boasts of a 100 percent hire rate for last June’s graduates.

This success rate is almost routine for ERA graduates, prime targets of companies such as Intel and Honeywell.

And Peterson is pushing students into worlds where electronics and robotics thrive. His office has several “robotic devices” controlled by his computer. Those devices sit around the electronics lab waiting for students to make them work. These are basic to the future of the program and the working world.

Peterson, while the newest ERA instructor, is not new to the college.

As a Running Start student, he was the 2007/08 Associated Students president. After graduation he earned his bachelor degree in mechanical engineering from Washington State University-Vancouver, and now plans to earn a master’s degree.

Because of his drive and desire for student success, Peterson, now 24, is one of the youngest instructors to be accepted to tenure track at Centralia College. He is quickly building on an already solid electronics program.

“The ERA program requires me to constantly learn new things and keep up on new technology,” Peterson said. “I try to teach to the future so that students are ahead of their peers when they enter the workforce.”

Peterson also works to bring electronics and robotics to the community by helping to advise robotics clubs at the middle school and high school levels. He is also responsible for starting last year’s robotics competition at the college.

“I wanted local kids to have the experience of a robotics competition without the high cost of the national competitions,” Peterson said. “Technology is where the industry is headed and I wanted them to have the chance to see this first hand.”

In addition to his other community involvement, Peterson also works with the local economic development committee to help bring high-tech industries to the area.

“With my connections and understanding of the industry, I hope to help the committee attract sustainable living-wage jobs to the area,” Peterson said.

See the Electronics Robotics Automation program website for more information.

Kristin Jensen overcomes hurdles en route to BASM

Kristin Jensen

Kristin Jensen

The demands of being a single mom raising two high school boys with college aspirations led Kristin Jensen to the conclusion that she needed a bachelor’s degree to help her compete for a higher paying job.

“I love my job as a legal assistant (working in the Office of the Attorney General in Olympia) but I need a better paying job so that I can help my boys go to college,” Jensen said. “I’ve been with the Office of the Attorney General for seven years, and there are job opportunities that I’ve missed out on because I didn’t have a bachelor degree.”

Jensen, born into a military family, spent much of her youth moving from base to base in the United States and Europe. She joined the military at the age of 19 and went into military intelligence. In the 1980s she was stationed in the Persian Gulf region as part of Operation Desert Shield. Rising to the rank of sergeant, her prospects for a career looked good, given her language skills.

But things change. Her Polish language skills didn’t mesh with the Army’s need for people who spoke Arabic. After four years she opted out, developing her life on the civilian side.

Once Jensen, now 45, set her sights on returning to school, she recognized that she hadn’t been to college since her military days more than 20 years in her past. She also knew that she needed to finish her associate degree before entering a program to earn her bachelor degree.

But those hurdles would not deter Jensen from reaching her goals.

She chose Centralia College’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Management (BASM) program and met with staff to find out what she needed to do to get enrolled.

Jensen first needed to finish her two-year degree and did so taking classes, mostly online, for five consecutive quarters through South Puget Sound Community College. She graduated with her degree this past summer and did so with an impressive 3.9 GPA.

“My youngest son and I had a competition to see who could get the highest GPA,” Jensen said. “I want to set a good example for my boys, and if I can work full-time, go to school, and then come home and fix dinner, they have no excuse not to do their best.”

Jensen is grateful to have the support of her coworkers and her boss, Solicitor General Noah Purcell, for allowing flexibility in her work schedule while she attends classes two nights a week in the BASM program.

“Kristin is smart, talented, and dedicated, and I am very happy that she can continue her education in the BASM program at Centralia College,” Purcell said. “It seems like a great fit for her, and I am excited that she is pursuing this opportunity.”

Jensen did extensive research when looking at bachelor programs. “I needed to find a program that would fit with work and in my life. The BASM program fit perfectly with the hybrid format, classes just two nights a week and the rest online,” Jensen said. “And with the traffic in Tacoma, commuting to Centralia was an easy choice.”

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