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Hear The Roar: Diesel Program Continues to Grow

diesel advisory board members and diesel faculty present award
Rebecca A. Eckland

At the beginning of the Spring 2021 Semester, Navistar/Silverstate International donated a semi-truck along with tools to the TMCC Diesel Program. On Friday, March 12 during an Advisory Board meeting, program instructors Kyle Smith and Jeremy Coggin presented Josh Gibbs, who represented the company, with a certificate of appreciation. Gibbs was also appointed as Chairman of the Diesel Advisory Committee moving forward.

The donation is one of many new innovations that amount to, in Coggin’s words “massive updates” to a program that, when he and Smith arrived in 2019, needed to get up to speed with industry standards and employer demands. In addition to recognizing the generosity of Navistar/Silverstate International, the meeting updated advisory board members on the many ways that Smith and Coggin have transformed an out-of-date program into a state-of-the-art one.

New Classes and Theory Deepen Student Experience

Every student who enters the diesel program will take the program’s newest offering: DT 100- Introduction to Diesel Technologies class. This class will give students a “taste of everything”: brakes, engines, hydraulics as well as an emphasis on safety. “This introductory class allows the students to really determine if they want to do this for a living or not,” said Coggin. The class will also introduce students to a fundamental skill that is sometimes lacking in the industry: technicians who know how to drive a manual transmission. 

Smith and Coggin also created DT 102, a basic electrical class. In previous semesters, students in the diesel program were required to take an electrical class from the neighboring automotive department, which didn’t quite measure up in terms of industry demands. “It’s going to teach them how to solder, how to build circuits, how electricity works... the basics. That will help them understand why a circuit isn’t working. With everything going through electronic controls, there was a serious need for that,” Coggin said. 

The instructors also added a mobile HVAC/heating class, DT 105, which will teach students how to work on AC systems. “In the summertime, especially at the dealerships, a large part of your business is based on AC repairs,” said Coggin. These three new classes are requirements of the restructured degree program.

The “Flipped” Classroom Experience

Beyond merely adding classes, Coggin and Smith have revised how they create a learning environment. “It used to be we’d sit down in a classroom and go over a lecture, usually by PowerPoint. We found that be to fairly effective, but we were running out of time in the lab for the hands-on work,” Smith explained. What was born was what Smith calls a “flipped classroom.”

“Day one, we get them out in the lab, starting to work on something... so we teach them how and where to find resources to be able to take a look at the procedure we’re trying to get them to do. We encourage students to find procedures and to use those procedures,” Smith said.  

“Procedures” are step-by-step instructions for completing diagnostic and repair tasks on diesel equipment from engines to drivetrains and tires to electrical.  This requires students to walk through an entire process step-by-step to see where a mistake or repair needs to be made. Learning not to skip a step is one of the most important lessons that the program teaches.

“When students realize mistakes they have made, they are devastated… [and] in all likelihood, they will never make that mistake again. And that’s a really great learning opportunity,” Coggin said. 

“We’re forcing them to use the procedure, which also teaches them how to read the foreign language of a technical manual,” Smith added. “The least important part of that class is taking the transmission apart and putting it back together… the most important part is students learning where to find the information they need to diagnose and solve the program. Next, is how to read that information and apply it to the situation in front of me.”

Another feature of the “flipped classroom” is that lecture is embedded into the lab. Instead of talking to students at desks, Coggin and Smith wait until the students have their hands on the diesel engines or their components before they begin delivering learning content.  Even though this teaching style demands more of Smith and Coggin, they are seeing vast improvements in terms of how much information students are able to learn and retain. 

“The students who were with us last semester and again in this new ‘flipped’ experience—they are saying that they are learning so much more and getting a better experience,” said Smith.

New Certificate and Degree Options Foster Student Motivation and Success

Coggin and Smith have also worked to improve the materials upon which students learn. The engines that were used by the program before were over forty years old. Those have been replaced with newer technology that is relevant to the industry, as well as newer semi-trucks like the one recently donated by Navistar/Silverstate International. 

They’ve also changed the structure of the program itself to include two additional Skill Certificates, as well as a new Certificate of Achievement that students can earn along the way as they work toward their Associate of Applied Science degree. 

“The skills certificates are automatically awarded as they achieve them, but the Certificate of Achievement they have to apply for,” explained Coggin. “So students have the opportunity to earn four skill certificates, two certificates of achievements in addition to their degree starting next semester.”

These skill certificates can be achieved within a single semester and offer different emphases, including:

  • Engine
  • Drive train
  • Electrical
  • General service

These certificates can help students to get a job right away or can be used as milestones to mark their progression through the full two-year degree program.

Industry Support for a Growing Program

With program revisions that place a larger emphasis on safety and following diagnostic procedures and hands-on learning, students are acquiring the skills that will make them competitive entry-level technicians in a field that is in desperate need of workers. 

Through the continued partnership between the Diesel Program and industry partners, the program will continue to evolve so that it can offer students relevant and rigorous training to prepare them for what could become a satisfying, lifelong career. 

For more information about the Diesel Program, contact the division of Applied Technologies at 775-856-5300.