While the oft-neglected humanities may provide university students with the tools for critical and creative thinking, in the United States, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is often where the jobs are, and Ferris State University Professor Dan Wanink has a remarkable success rate in preparing his students for the work force straight out of college.
Wanink’s CAD Drafting & Tool Design Technology (CDTD) program gives his students the skills they need to not only obtain an associate’s degree, but to land a job with industry as well. In fact, Wanink says that he has a remarkable near-100 percent job placement rate.
To what does Wanink attribute his success? He teaches CAD using real-world, hands-on projects that are directly applicable to the tooling industry. To learn more, we spoke to Wanink, learning about his teaching method, his CAD tool of choice and a few educational tips he picked up on a recent trip to Finland to study their education system.
From CAD Student to Teacher
Located in Big Rapids, Mich., Ferris State is home to over 14,000 students. The CDTD program in particular is within the College of Engineering Technology, one of the two largest such colleges in the U.S.
Wanink has been in the CAD world for over 25 years, first studying 2D CAD as a 17-year-old high school student in 1991. “I’ve basically grown up in the CAD world, from working in 2D to wireframe modeling to surface modeling to solid modeling to parametric modeling,” Wanink said. “My students tease me that I bleed CAD.”
Not only has Wanink been using and teaching CAD for years, but the start of the CDTD program at Ferris State University has been in place for 70 years. The CDTD program was founded in 1947 as the Mechanical Drafting program and began with just seven students. The CDTD program has a major focus on the design of tooling to mass produce products.
“Our program is 70 years old, starting with the drafting board days of manufacturing products—designing the molds, dies and fixtures,” Wanink explained. “We’ve got a long-standing history in Michigan and the U.S. In the Midwest, we’re really known for our toolmakers, tool design, fabrication and production. It’s sort of a natural fit that we’ve been doing this for so long and providing graduates to the various manufacturing businesses.”
Students first compete at the school level, then a regional level, then a state level, with only the first place winners of each state moving onto nationals. Every year, Wanink coaches students interested in participating in the SkillsUSA Technical Drafting and Automated Manufacturing Technology competitions.
“I’m a competitive person, so our students are well-coached and trained. We spend extra time outside of class with the students who want to participate. Since I became the coordinator of our SkillsUSA program in 2006, I’ve had a state national champion that has gone onto nationals to compete in technical drafting and automated manufacturing every year,” Wanink said. “Since 2006, I have trained and coached eight national medalists that have come from the CDTD program.”
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