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Addressing Rural Industry and Student Needs through the Manufacturing of a Community College and University Partnership in Mechatronics and Robotics Systems

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Two-year College STEM Programs Meeting the Needs of Industry

Tagged Division

Two-Year College

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Mark Bradley Kinney Bay de Noc Community College

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Mark Kinney serves as the Dean for Business and Technology at Bay College in Escanaba, MI. He has successfully received over $2 million in grants for this small, rural institution, which have been used to transform the technical education the institution provides. Most recently, Mark successfully authored an OER Degree Initiative grant through Achieving the Dream to develop a complete degree pathway using nothing but open educational resources. Mark served on the development committee for the Voluntary Framework of Accountability, an initiative of the American Association of Community Colleges, and has also recently founded a non-profit community initiative known as the Upper Peninsula’s World Improvement Scavenger Hunt, or UP WISH. Mark has also recently completed his dissertation on the roles of rural educators and rural community colleges, and believes this is an underrepresented segment of our national higher education system.

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Mark Highum Bay de Noc Community College

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Mark Highum is currently the Division Chair for Technology at Bay College. He is the Lead Instructor for Mechatronics and Robotics Systems and also teaches courses in the Computer Network Systems and Security degree. Mark holds a Master's in Career and Technical Education (Highest Distinction) from Ferris State University, and a Bachelor's in Workforce Education and Development (Summa Cum Laude) from Southern Illinois University.
Mark is a retired Chief Electronics Technician (Submarines) and served and taught as part of the Navy's Nuclear Power Program.
Mark is active with SkillsUSA and has been on the National Education Team for Mechatronics since 2004.

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Aleksandr Sergeyev Michigan Technological University

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Aleksandr Sergeyev is currently an Associate
Professor in the Electrical Engineering
Technology program in the
School of Technology at Michigan Technological
University. Dr. Aleksandr
Sergeyev earned his bachelor degree in
Electrical Engineering at Moscow University
of Electronics and Automation in
1995. He obtained the Master degree
in Physics from Michigan Technological
University in 2004 and the PhD degree in Electrical Engineering
from Michigan Technological University in 2007.
Dr. Aleksandr Sergeyev’s research interests include high
energy laser propagation through the turbulent atmosphere,
developing advanced control algorithms for wavefront sensing
and mitigating effects of the turbulent atmosphere, digital
inline holography, digital signal processing, and laser spectroscopy. Dr. Sergeyev is a member of ASEE, IEEE, SPIE and is actively involved in promoting engineering education.

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Scott A Kuhl Michigan Technological University

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Scott Kuhl is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Cognitive & Learning Sciences at Michigan Technological University. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Utah in 2009. He has been the faculty advisor for Husky Game Development Enterprise since Spring 2010. His research interests include immersive virtual environments, head-mounted displays, and spatial perception. A link to his web page can be found at

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Meeting the employment needs of regional industries can be difficult in any environment, but doing so in rural locales represents an especially challenging, yet critically important, mission. Community colleges are generally well-suited to the task of producing graduates with the necessary skill sets for entering the workforce and meeting this demand, but rural institutions face a major barrier in the form of insufficient resources to purchase equipment, hire qualified staff, and provide facilities to support multifarious academic and technical programs. Additional challenges such as a lack of enrollment, student demographic homogeneity, and geographic isolation also disproportionately impact rural higher education. Faced with these challenges in 2014, Bay de Noc Community College (Bay College) developed an innovative partnership with a regional university to leverage economies of scale through the sharing of talent, resources, and even students, in order to address local workforce needs in the area of Mechatronics and Robotic Systems. This partnership has resulted in a stackable degree program that provides students with multiple exit points, the development of non-credit workshops for other educational faculty and incumbent workers, and even the creation of robotic simulation software.

Now, three years after the advent of this partnership, Bay College and Michigan Technological University are able to share their model of collaboration with other rural and urban communities to demonstrate how effective partnering between the two-year and four-year levels of higher education can alleviate many of the challenges that afflict community colleges, especially those from a rural environment. Co-developing curriculum, working with the same equipment, utilizing elective options effectively, and creating clear articulation agreements have all proven to be successful strategies for creating stackable credentials that cross institutional barriers. Furthermore, the work of these institutions has led to insights surrounding future improvements that can be implemented, such as by creating student-level partnerships that completely break down geographic, demographic, and philosophical barriers between community colleges and universities. This paper provides an overview of this partnership, a description of the successful strategies that should be scaled up elsewhere, and a researched discussion of how student-level partnerships may be the next big step for rural community colleges.

Kinney, M. B., & Highum, M., & Sergeyev, A., & Kuhl, S. A. (2018, June), Addressing Rural Industry and Student Needs through the Manufacturing of a Community College and University Partnership in Mechatronics and Robotics Systems Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29755

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