Flying, building, and programming drones might not sound like your average day at school, but it’s a reality with the new Drone Technology and Automated Industrial Technology (AIT) programs at Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology. The programs have many skill sets, and career paths worked into the curriculum, offering students abundant opportunities.
Robert Nemec is starting his first year at CAVIT as the new technology teacher spearheading the Drone Technology and AIT programs. He has vast experience in the field. He graduated with a BA degree that covered graphic design, art, and medicine. The diversity in his background continued from college into his professional career. He worked for the Marine Corps as a medic, then raised cattle, taught an agriculture course, taught students in the healthcare industry, and trained an entire division for the American Red Cross.
Mr. Nemec also spent six years working with the Pima Joint Technical Education District in their Career and Technical Education program. “Because of my industrial background, I’m able to bring that experience into the classroom and, of course, meet all the requirements for the program,” Mr. Nemec explains. To say Mr. Nemec is a jack of all trades would be an understatement!
Even with all his expertise, Mr. Nemec is still on the hunt for knowledge. Mr. Nemec says, “I have a higher learning background—I have my bachelor’s degree. Then at the same time, I have different areas of training from manufacturing. I’ve been on a line before, and I spent time with the American Red Cross. I worked for Costco at one point. And I’ve continued my education. That’s key.”
Mr. Nemec says that he is constantly learning new things from his pupils. When discussing his students, he states, “I am just the stepping stone. That is what I consider myself. They have to do all the work, and I guide them.” Mr. Nemec’s goal is to instill leadership and teamwork into each of the students. To assist in this, he designates team leads and has the class work in units.
The real-world skills and experience acquired throughout all of CAVIT’s programs prepare students for the workforce. Mr. Nemec made the importance of preparing his students for the future very clear when he explained, “We want to prepare them for a professional environment. The idea is that from day one when the students walk in, they are not children or kids to me—they are young professionals.” The Drone and AIT programs allow students hands-on opportunities with robotics. Still, the practical life skills students are expected to develop are almost just as essential, such as problem-solving, respect, and communication.
The Drone Technology program will allow students to build, program, and fly high-tech drones. At the end of two years, students will be prepared to obtain their remote pilot industry certification. But the program is so much more than just learning to fly a drone. Students will learn about navigational systems, flight planning, decision making, airframe systems, and aerospace history.
Students enrolled in the Automated Industrial Technology program will prepare students to receive their National Center for Construction Education & Research production technician industry certification. The course covers inventing, designing, and producing solutions for complex engineering challenges. In addition, students will learn about robotics, electrical and mechanical systems, industrial safety, and data communications.
The course material for these programs are not limited to one career path. In fact, there are many fields influenced by Drone Technology and AIT. Mr. Nemec explained that he plans to collaborate with different departments at CAVIT. For example, the Fire Science and Criminal Justice units have plenty of connections to these courses.
As for Fire Science, they use drones as well as hydraulics in the trucks. In the Criminal Justice department, drones are useful in dangerous situations and help protect workers. Mr. Nemec even mentioned some unconventional departments that can benefit from his programs, such as health care, prosthetics, and cosmetology.
Drone Technology and AIT have much to offer helping students get a step in the professional door. One of Mr. Nemec’s main goals is to encourage industry partners to teach and interact with the students in the classroom. He says one of his main goals this year is to get students to actually have hands-on experience. He explains he wants the students, “not only to learn the skills here but take it out and apply them whether it be a summer job or an internship with one of our industry partners.” Mr. Nemec continued,
“We are reaching out and working on internships. We want to get the students in a live environment so that they can see it first hand.” Internship opportunities are highly sought after, and by bringing future employers into the classroom, students can add to their portfolio of contacts.
CAVIT offers students hands-on work experience, and the Drone Technology and AIT programs are no exception. Mr. Nemec creates a professional environment and seeks to help his students accomplish their goals. In regards to this program, he says, “I want my students to shine. It’s not my program. It’s their program. It’s what they make it.”