BERLIN — White Mountains Community College recently acquired two pieces of equipment to help industrial mechanics students learn better.
With funding provided by the Northern Border Regional Commission, WMCC purchased a FIXTURLASER ECO digital, wireless horizontal shaft alignment system and a Microsoft HoloLens augmented-reality headset.
Kyle Aubut, who is the industrial mechanics program coordinator and an associate professor at WMCC, demonstrated both during his March 25 class.
Upon completing his class later this spring, Aubut’s students will earn a certificate in Industrial Mechanics, which will position them for a wide range of jobs and, should they choose, allow them to enter training programs with the Eastern Millwright Regional Council’s New England Local Union #1121 as a second-year apprentice.
Aubut said the graduates of the Industrial Mechanics program that evolved over the years at WMCC and was formally launched in 2020, will be well compensated by future employers.
A 2020 graduate reported earning $47,000 in six months working at a nuclear power plant, said Aubut.
The pay is substantial, Aubut said, because the cost of machine downtime due to a misaligned shaft, be it at an energy facility or the former Gorham Paper and Tissue — where he previously worked as mechanical superintendent — can be in the seven figures.
Aubut anticipates that some of his students will end up working at GPT’s successor, White Mountain Paper Company, while others will work wherever the need for their skill sets takes them.
To make sure his students get the education they need to deal with the variety of machinery they may encounter, Aubut teaches them how to read “old school” dial indicators, but cautions that those indicators are “cumbersome” and can easily lead to a wrong diagnosis.
By comparison, the FIXTURLASER ECO is 10 times more precise than dial indicators, said Aubut, and the former also includes an integrated Bluetooth communications feature.
With the HoloLens, which Aubut and WMCC President Charles Lloyd believe is the first use of the device in the New Hampshire community college system, Aubut can remotely show students how to operate the FIXTURLASER ECO.
He said the FIXTURLASER ECO can do a vibration analysis in minutes that could take the students hours to perform with dial indicators and/or a broom stick, which, while decidedly old school, remains a way to determine whether a shaft is misaligned.
Lloyd said he loved that technology is being infused into the Industrial Mechanics program.
Overall at WMCC, “We’re trying to make ‘trades’ cool again,” said Lloyd.
He said the welding, diesel/heavy equipment, culinary arts, and nursing programs are “extremely strong” at WMCC, which hopes to have the same success with industrial mechanics as well as with newer programs such as veterinary assistant and conservation law.