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Diving in to new class

June 19, 2012
Emily Siegmon - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

College is now providing a unique learning opportunity for marine technology students. A new marine technology curriculum is available for students interested in working on Great Lakes, ocean-based research vessels, and industries using remote operated vehicle operations and applied robotics.

Luke Clyburn, president of Noble Odyssey Foundation and captain of USMM, is teaching a recommended technical elective, research diver, at ACC, and also leads the in-water training. He said the class is new, but will serve as extra training in research diving.

"We want everyone to go work for a company and have the experience to become research divers. Every job in the industry involving diving requires taking care of emergency problems. Right now, we're focusing on safety and treating diving injuries while practicing evacuations and working with paramedics," Clyburn said.

Article Photos

News Photo by Emily Siegmon
Alpena Community College research diver students and instructor Luke Clyburn prepare to practice rescue diving techniques on the docked “Pride of Michigan.”

The program has on-water components, course work related to underwater archaeology, and develops skills that are used to design and build ROVs. The water portion of the class takes place at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

"There's so much right here to look at and study, we really don't need to go to other places. Getting a college involved in this is really great. To have a class like this at ACC is tremendous, especially because you have the sanctuary right here and hyperbaric chambers," Clyburn said.

Dave Cummins, instructor and adviser for the marine technology program, said the program was created after receiving a grant that will fund the program for three years.

"We will have funding for the next three years, but we're hoping to create a sustainable program and continue successfully. We have the sanctuary, resources and vessels here. We're one of the few colleges in the nation that can offer something like this," Cummins said.

This is the first semester, and the beginning of the summer classes of the two-year marine technology program. Students who successfully complete the classes will receive an associate in applied science in marine technology and have the opportunity to participate in a summer internship. Students who are interested in receiving diving certifications and taking diving classes do have the opportunity to take electives that include open water diver, advanced open water diver, and research diver in the summer.

"Right now the diving classes are only offered in the summer, but open water and advanced water might be offered in the fall if there is enough demand for it," Cummins said. "We're excited about the turnout. We started promoting the program in April, we have seven students in the program, but we'd like to get around a dozen. We've been doing a lot of promoting outside of our service district because it's such a unique program."

Kathy Trax of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors said offering marine technology is an asset for the community and anyone interested in diving.

"In eight days we had non-divers accelerate and prepare for advanced open water diving. Everyone is picking up on everything fast without issues. The community is learning more about their surroundings, what's out there, and the resources that are on the Great Lakes," Trax said.

Some of the students in the research diver class said they are enjoying and find it exciting.

"It's been an excellent program so far. The instruction is great, and there's an ease working with everyone, I'm making really great connection," Andrew Augustyn said. "A lot of people in Alpena don't have the opportunity to see what we're seeing."

Kevin Puszcz said the instructors are thorough, and the class has been thrilling.

"The class is thrilling and exciting, but it's also important to know all of the safety procedures. The more you learn, the deeper and more dangerous you can go. This class builds our confidence and reassures us that it's safe," Puszcz said.

In addition to the on-water component of the program, marine technology students also experience a variety of hands-on technologies used in commercial and scientific work in labs on ACC's main campus. For more information about the program, visit or call Cummins at 358-7224.

Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5687.



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