ALPENA - Four students from Alpena Community College traveled to the Underwater Intervention Conference in New Orleans to learn more about marine technology and underwater robotics. Students Andrew Augustyn, Branden Deroque, Mike Dunham and Jason Bradley went with their marine technology instructor David Cummins and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Deputy Superintendent Russ Green to the Morial Convention Center to attend the conference, which is the largest in the nation for underwater robotics.
The event included information and exhibits on commercial diving, remotely operated vehicles, manned submersibles and all other aspects of the underwater operations industry.
"The conference was a great experience," Branden Deroque said. "We had the opportunity to see the employee side of things, and learned how companies in the field keep employees, what they are looking for in new hires and got to choose a number of different sessions."
Green and Cummins organized a session in which they spoke about the partnership between the sanctuary and ACC, and how they have been working together to share ideas about the program. The students attended multiple sessions they chose based on their interests and the different demonstrations available.
"We were able to network with the exhibitors and gather ideas about ROVs from professionals," Deroque said. "Just seeing the number of different job opportunities available was a great experience besides the sessions."
Along with exposure to around 150 different vendors, the students took a trip to Oceaneering in Morgan City, La., the largest employer in the ROV business, providing for 30 percent of the global market. Augustyn said Oceaneering is hoping to manufacture 90 to 95 new ROVs by 2017, and with each having a three man crew working two shifts, that equates to around 600 new technology jobs in a niche field where training is available at ACC.
"We got to tour the facility and see the equipment used by Oceaneering," Augustyn said. "We also walked through the training program and got to look at their ROVs."
The marine technology program at ACC has been developed with help from Oceaneering to align the program directly with jobs in demand.
"A lot of our training equipment at ACC is, or is close to, the same as what they have at Oceaneering," Augustyn said. "For a two-year degree, in your first year of employment you can make $55,000 to $60,000, and there's room for advancement."
With the knowledge they learned at the convention and their visit to Oceaneering the students now have a better understanding of the opportunities in the field of marine technology. Along with networking with potential employees, Augustyn said they also met a lot of other students in programs similar to the one at ACC, and bounced ideas about building ROVs for the international competition in Alpena in June.
"We're taking the knowledge we learned at UI and working on our design for the competition," Augustyn said. "We're working on finding sponsors for our build, and are excited about having the competition here in Alpena."
Augustyn and Deroque said they were thankful that Cummins worked so hard to give them the opportunity to go to the UI Convention, and to the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center for sponsoring their trip. Cummins and Green were able to attend thanks to a Department of Labor Community College Career Training Grant written by Don MacMaster, director of the World Center for Concrete Technology and dean of workforce development at ACC.
"This was really a great opportunity," Augustyn said. "Almost everyone involved in marine technology was there with a lot of people that are influential in the field. By us being there, we also got the word out about our program and what ACC has to offer."
For more information on the marine technology program at ACC, visit discover.alpenacc.edu and click on the Marine Technology link.
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.