NWTC instructor finds creative and innovative way to teach hands-on learning at home

Wednesday May 6, 2020
NWTC Biomedical Electronics students are cleaning up in class
What does a vacuum have to do with a Biomedical Electronics Class? No joke here. If you ask Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Instructor Don Cormier, vacuums have a lot to do with engineering. 
As NWTC moved courses into flexible formats in March in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus in our area, Cormier thought, how can students get the hands-on learning experience at home? 
“We were looking for something the students could take apart, play with and have a little fun,” Cormier said.  
Biomedical Electronics is the install, maintenance, and technical support for medical equipment. Students had been spending the semester learning all the ins and outs of biomedical and laboratory equipment. 
Cormier found the hands-on in a common household electronic, a vacuum. 
“Our students were able to find inexpensive and even free vacuums,” Cormier said. 
The principals are the same, whether it is an old vacuum or medical equipment, students need to know how to find a problem and fix it.  
"One of the main reasons for going to a technical college was for the hands-on experience, so to be in this kind of situation is a little bit more difficult," NWTC student Evan Reed said. 
Students are learning much of what they would learn in the lab; time management, proper tool use, electrical motors, trouble shooting and ordering parts.   
Each week, students work on an assignment from learning how to service an on/off switch or fan to testing a motor. Each lesson can be applied to the theory or direct work on medical equipment. Once the students complete their work, they send a photo or video of it to Cormier. 
"I'm glad that our instructors are finding ways to work around that and still giving us that opportunity to be able to work and collaborate as classmates and still get that education we need," Reed said. 
While the plan for the semester did not turn out how students had planned, Cormier says the class is moving forward the best way they can. 
"I think they're learning without realizing that they're learning, that's another good benefit to this," Cormier said. 

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