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Academic Excellence Award: Donald Posterick

Donald Posterick
Electronics Engineering Technology
Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Described by faculty as a student who demonstrates “a focused determination to succeed and an outstanding desire to excel,” Donald Posterick earned not only the Academic Excellence Award in Robotics & Manufacturing, but he also received this year’s Student Leadership Award from the Dunwoody Alumni Association.

“Donald reminds me that the best Dunwoody students not only challenge themselves, but also challenge us as instructors to push harder and farther,” Dean of Robotics & Manufacturing E.J. Daigle said.

Posterick’s love for electronics and engineering started back in high school when his natural curiosity prompted him to join the Robotics Team and the Shell Eco Marathon Team.

When nobody on the Robotics Team voiced an interest in tackling the electronics and programming side, Posterick stepped up and took on the challenge. He then went on to develop a speed controller for the Shell Eco Marathon Team’s prototype electronic vehicle.

“I began to learn how to program using online resources – and a lot of trial and error,” Posterick said. “At first it was hard, but I was determined, and I didn’t let anything slow me down.”

That hard work and determination has also helped him succeed here at Dunwoody.

Originally from Grand Rapids, Minn., Posterick discovered Dunwoody College while out talking with companies about sponsoring the Robotics Team. The vice president of the local Chrysler dealership happened to be the former IT director at Dunwoody and encouraged Posterick to check it out and connected him with Daigle.

Posterick followed up on the advice and applied for the College’s Youth Career Awareness Program.

“I was impressed by all that Dunwoody had to offer – from the fully equipped labs, experienced faculty, and interesting extra-curricular activities. I knew that this was the school for me,” Posterick said. “I was luckily accepted into YCAP. The scholarship from YCAP made it possible for me to attend Dunwoody, and after spending the five weeks over the summer at Dunwoody, I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else.”

During his time at Dunwoody, Posterick has enjoyed the project-based approach to education.

“Here at Dunwoody the material we cover in our theory classes we immediately apply in our labs to build and reinforce the skills that we will need in the future,” Posterick said.

Posterick has excelled beyond the classroom as well. He served as the lead programmer for Dunwoody’s autonomous snow plow teams, resulting in third and second place finishes during the past two years, among 12 of the top engineering universities in the Upper Midwest.

In addition, Posterick and his teammates went above and beyond assisting other colleges and university teams with repairs to their own snowplows, ensuring they could compete – and earning the Professor Nattu Sportsmanship Award.

Posterick is graduating from the Electronics Engineering Technology program and is planning to return this fall as a student in the Software Engineering program.

After two years and hundreds of hours of software design for the autonomous snowplows I have realized that my true passion is not just electronics, but bringing together electronics and software,” Posterick said. “My plan is pursue a bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering from Dunwoody over the next four years and continue studying and developing autonomous navigation software to be used by our snowplows, but also to create a versatile system capable of autonomous flight control and obstacle avoidance in multirotor platforms.”

Academic Excellence Award: Luke Smith

Luke Smith
Web Programming & Database Development
Mound, Minnesota


Leaving a job he’d held for 15 years and going back to college was a big decision for Luke Smith, but earning a degree in Web Programming & Database Development and securing a new position as a Digital Content Developer has made everything worth it.

Originally from Northern Minnesota, Smith attended Eveleth Gilbert High School and enrolled at a local community college for computer science right after graduation. For two years, Smith diligently went to his college classes, earned good grades, and believed he was working toward a degree. But what he found out after completing his requirements was that the program wasn’t approved yet, which meant he wouldn’t be receiving a degree after all.

Not wanting to give up on his dream of earning a college degree, Smith explored a neighboring university where he was told his general credits would transfer – but they didn’t. To avoid starting over, Smith decided to enter the working world instead.

He took a job as the manager of a direct mail company in the Twin Cities, and spent the next 15 years making a living, but also realizing he wasn’t on the right career path. 

“My son has been my inspiration,” Smith said about his motivation to return to college. “Had he not been around, I don’t think I would have paid attention to how much I needed to make a career change. Going to school and getting a good education makes a big difference.”

Smith had two friends who were instructors at Dunwoody, and they encouraged him to attend an open house and check it out.

After his visit, Smith knew he wanted to go back to what he enjoyed – computer programming. In addition, his desire to return to the workforce as soon as possible convinced Smith that attending Dunwoody was the right decision. So in January of 2016, he left his job and started school fulltime.

“Being older, I wanted to get back into the workforce as soon as possible,” Smith said. “I didn’t want to waste time taking a lot of unnecessary classes. I wanted a more focused approach.”

Smith has always been a hands-on learner and wanted an education that reflected that style. The Dunwoody model ended up being a great fit.

“The instructors are fantastic,” Smith said. “They are always willing to give you any help you need and they present the material to you in a way they know you are going to understand. They really make sure that you are learning the things they are teaching.”

Smith shared that when he made the decision to return to college, he set a number of goals for himself.

“I told myself, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to commit everything possible,” Smith said. “I’m going to treat it just like a job and give it everything I have.”

The strategy worked, and Smith has earned not only a 4.0 GPA and a 100 percent attendance record, but also the Academic Excellence Award in Computer Technology.

“Luke was an exemplary student who demonstrated professionalism and leadership amongst his peers,” said Web Programming & Database Development Instructor Chris Fulton. “Luke would go out of his way to help fellow students with questions and provide insight that he felt would benefit the entire class.”

A peer tutor during his time at Dunwoody, Smith enjoyed the time he spent helping other students.

“I try not to be a student who just shows up and goes home, but to use my experience to help others,” Smith said about being a peer tutor. “You’d be surprised by how much you learn by helping other people.”

Smith said his success at Dunwoody can also be attributed to the fact that he is doing something he loves.

“Decide what your passion is – what you like doing,” Smith said. “School is going to be the easiest if you pick something you enjoy doing from the beginning.”

Academic Excellence Award: Kyle Smeaton

Kyle Smeaton
Web Programming & Database Development ‘18
Edina, MN


Kyle SmeatonWeb Programming & Database Development isn’t just a career path for Kyle Smeaton – it’s his passion in life. That excitement and curiosity for his field of study is one of the many reasons why Smeaton was selected as one of two Computer Technology Academic Excellence Award recipients for the Class of 2018.

“I really like programming computers and making them do what I want them to do,” Smeaton said. “And I discovered I could make a living doing it.”

Smeaton attended the Fair School Downtown where he developed an interest in theatre tech. Wanting to give that a try, he attended a community college for one semester, taking classes in stage lighting and sound design.

He liked the field, but wanted to give his main interest a try — computer programming.

Having heard good things about Dunwoody, he decided to attend an open house and soon after made the decision to enroll.

“I liked the idea of a two-year college experience,” he said. “It gets you out in the field faster, and I enjoy the hands-on learning — it’s not just theory. If you really love doing something and you want to get out in the job field, [Dunwoody] is a good way to go.”

Already a hands-on learner, Smeaton had built his first computer back in high school. It was then that he fell in love with Linux, an open-source software operating system.

“My first time talking to Kyle was two months before his first day of school,” said Computer Networking Assistant Professor Curt Gabrielson. “He was so interested in Linux that he contacted me to find out more about the Open Source Club at Dunwoody. He has been involved with the Club since becoming a student and is now the club president. He has also become Vice President of Phi Theta Kappa.”

Smeaton has always liked understanding the science behind what makes things work. In high school, he decided to take apart a large lantern battery so he could turn it into a machine that split water into its component parts using an electric current.

“I get really excited about that kind of stuff,” Smeaton said.

That excitement is evident when Smeaton begins talking about his final project at Dunwoody, which involves another interest — mountain biking. He built a website database that catalogs mountain bikes to make it simple to search for exact specifications.

“I’m kind of loving everything I’m doing right now,” Smeaton said. “I feel like I’ve really grown here. Dunwoody has helped me find myself. It’s really a privilege to get to do something you love.”

Gabrielson said Smeaton is always willing to share his knowledge with others. “Kyle is a pleasure to have in the classroom. He is excelling academically as one of the top students of his cohort, with near perfect grades. He also has a near perfect attendance record and routinely sacrifices time to help other students.”

Looking to the future, Smeaton wants to find a system administration position or a position that includes database work. He also wants to contribute to the programming community and maybe even program a video game someday.

And as with everything he does, Smeaton will bring his self-motivation and his desire to keep improving and learning. “I want to be able to contribute and help other people,” he said.

Construction Management students benefit from sitting down with industry representatives

Mock interviews = real life lessons

The interviews may not have been “real,” but there was real benefit in the experience.

This April, representatives from 12 companies in the construction industry led mock interviews with 12 Dunwoody students in the Construction Management and Construction Project Management program areas. The students walked away with their questions answered and gained some tips and advice to keep in mind when applying for future positions.

Participating companies included: Prominent Construction, LLC; Constructive Builders; H&B Elevators; Kraus-Anderson Companies; Inside Edge CIS; Parsons; Mortenson Construction; Trex Commercial Products, Inc.; CliqStudios/Wayzata Home Products; David Weekley Homes; and Apex Construction & Tile.

Student takeaways

“What I learned from the mock interview was things to keep in mind about the company I interview with – finding out about a company’s values – especially as it relates to the employees.  The most helpful tip was how to focus on my strengths and relay this to a perspective employer and their Human Resources department.”

-Dana Maier, Construction Project Management, expected graduation May 2018

“The mock interview was a great opportunity to get in front of potential industry employers in a pressure-free environment with instant feedback to responses as the questions were asked.”

-Travis Northway, Construction Management, expected graduation May 2019

“What I learned from participating in the mock interview was that you should always come prepared with questions for the company. You want to know what they will do for you just as much as what you will do for them. What I found most helpful was that the recruiters helped us refine our resumes and helped us with how to answer questions.”

-Tyler Fish, Construction Project Management, expected graduation May 2019

“These types of mock interviews give students, such as myself, adequate exposure to what a real life interview is comprised of. You get a firsthand look into what verbal and mental skills may be required to succeed. All that paired with interviewers giving instantaneous, genuine feedback helps me build a platform for continuous growth in my field.”

-Kyle Bliss, Construction Management, expected graduation May 2018

 

Dunwoody names two Distinguished Teachers for 2018

Tom Larson & Richard Thomson honored for their commitment to students

Excellence in teaching and a commitment to lifelong learning are two of the reasons Machine Tool Technology Assistant Professor Tom Larson and Applied Management Adjunct Instructor Richard Thomson were awarded the 2018 Distinguished Teacher Award by Dunwoody College of Technology.

Larson and Thomson were presented with the awards during the April All-Employee Meeting, and both instructors were given medallions to wear during the College’s commencement ceremony this May.

The award is presented annually to a faculty member who has committed a significant portion of their career to the art of teaching and who demonstrates a consistent ability to instill critical and creative thinking skills in their students. In addition, they have demonstrated a commitment to the field of education and building effective relationships within secondary education and industry.

2018 Distinguished Teacher Award Tom Larson

Pictured (from left): Dean of Robotics & Manufacturing Programs E.J. Daigle, Machine Tool Technology Assistant Professor Tom Larson, Provost Jeff Ylinen, and President Rich Wagner.

Tom Larson: Dedicated to his craft and his students

For more than 28 years, Larson has been educating future machinists and manufacturing technicians in his roll as an educator at Dunwoody College of Technology.

“Tom is an outstanding instructor, and his students appreciate his meticulous attention to detail and extensive explanations of CNC programming,” said E.J. Daigle, Dean of Robotics & Manufacturing Programs.

Larson was instrumental in the concept and creation of Dunwoody’s program Right Skills Now for Manufacturing in 2011, and since then he has worked with his students to obtain more than 600 National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) credentials.

“Combining all of this with his willingness to work after hours, including most Saturdays, to maintain and repair equipment makes Tom a crucial resource to the success of a machine shop,” Daigle said. “Tom’s role at Dunwoody cannot be discounted.”

“Receiving the award, which was totally unexpected, was a very gratifying experience,” Larson said. “If you pursue vocationally what you enjoy, and work at perpetuating the craft, the end result will undoubtedly be a satisfying one.”

2018 Distinguished Teacher Award

Pictured (from left): President Rich Wagner, Applied Management Adjunct Instructor Richard Thomson, and Provost Jeff Ylinen.

Richard Thomson: Putting students first

As both a faculty member and an administrator, Thomson has spent the majority of his career dedicating himself to ensuring that all students get the best education possible.

“His selfless, servant leader attitude is demonstrated on a daily basis,” said Michael White, Dean of Applied Management. “His dedication to his students is commendable and goes way above the expectations for any faculty member.”

Thomson holds his students to a high standard, but works proactively and fairly with them so they can be successful.

“He always believes in his students, even when his students do not believe in themselves,” White said. “There are countless success stories found in his students, who would not be successful without the incredible dedication, caring, and teaching excellence exemplified by Richard.”

Always willing to adapt new technologies, Thomson took on the challenge of finding a new way to deliver distance learning. In a short timeframe, he worked to create a webcasting option that delivered an outstanding class to his students. The Applied Management program now uses this as the standard delivery method for the program. ­

Finding the right mix

Concrete Bowling Ball Competition 1Dunwoody students designing a better concrete bowling ball

It might only be eight inches in diameter and weigh less than 12 pounds, but there is nothing simple about designing and constructing a concrete bowling ball. But two Dunwoody students are taking on the challenge and putting their creativity and ingenuity to the test at an international competition later this month.

Sponsored by the American Concrete Institute (ACI), the international FRC Bowling Ball Competition will be held on March 25 in Salt Lake City, Utah during the Concrete Convention and Exposition. The object of the competition is to demonstrate the effect of fiber reinforced concrete, to gain experience in forming and fabricating a fiber-reinforced concrete element, and to encourage creativity in engineering design and analysis.

This is the first year that Dunwoody will compete in the competition, said Ben Holbrook, Surveying & Civil Engineering Technology Senior Instructor. Holbrook was told about the competition from an industry connection and brought it forward to students in the Construction Sciences & Building Technology program areas to see if there was interest.

Construction Project Management student Nate Swanson and Surveying & Civil Engineering Technology student Hayden Swanson were immediately on board with the project.

The rules of the game

Holbrook said that engineering a perfectly round ball from concrete is difficult enough, but competition rules make it even trickier. Typically, an 8-inch diameter ball of concrete would weigh about 24 pounds, but guidelines for the event state that each bowling ball must weigh no more than 12 pounds.

N. Swanson said that each team is allowed to use two additional materials to achieve the goal. The Dunwoody team has chosen to use a Styrofoam ball inside the concrete as well as a polymer filler.

Deciding on the right mixture has taken the team hours of planning and designing, and then they still needed to fabricate it. Last week, the team moved into forming and testing their design. In order to form the 8-inch cylindrical shape, the Dunwoody team decided to use a round lighting fixture as their mold.

Getting ready for competition

The team is making multiple concrete bowling balls using their design so they can test them out before heading out to Salt Lake City. More than 50 teams from around the world will be competing in this year’s competition.

The competition includes two categories: Bowling Ball Design and Bowling Ball Analysis. Both categories require knowledge and experience about concrete, fiber reinforcement, material behavior, and bowling. Tests during the competition will include a mass test, diameter test, toughness test, and load test. In addition, each team will compete in a bowling test to see which team can score the highest in six-pin bowling.

Both N. Swanson and H. Swanson said they have enjoyed using their knowledge and skills to find innovative solutions in a hands-on competition.    

Learning about Leadership in Today’s Technology Fields

Mitch DeJong speaking at Dunwoody
March Leadership Lecture featured
Chief Technology Officer from Design Ready Controls

Multi-generational workforce development, embracing conflict and harnessing diverse perspectives to find creative solutions were just a few of the topics Mitch DeJong spoke about at Dunwoody’s March 1 C. Charles Jackson Leadership Lecture.

The Chief Technology Officer at Design Ready Controls, DeJong shared leadership lessons he’s learned from a career that has spanned the automotive, environmental and manufacturing sectors.

“Embracing passion equals embracing conflict,” DeJong said during his lecture, explaining that when you can embrace conflict between two diverse viewpoints, rather than trying to build a middle-ground consensus that doesn’t make either side happy, you can arrive at a better solution.

Mitch DeJong with Dunwoody President Rich Wagner and VP of Institutional Advancement Brian NelsonDeJong has a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Natural Resources Science and Management and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from North Dakota State University.

His career and research have focused on multi-perspective design in a variety of fields, including: automotive design, expert systems software architecture, natural resources planning, and most recently, multi-generational workforce development.

Design Ready Controls is a growing manufacturing company headquartered out of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

 

Dunwoody College Names Vice President of Institutional Advancement

Dunwoody hires Brian Nelson to lead College’s
strategic advancement efforts

Brian NelsonFor more than 30 years, Brian Nelson has helped non-profit organizations grow and donors support organizational missions. And now, he brings his skills and passion for fundraising to Dunwoody.

Serving as the Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Nelson will lead advancement efforts for the College, including fundraising, alumni engagement, and industry partnerships.

“Dunwoody is a Midwest landmark for high quality technical education with a rich tradition and bright future,” Nelson said. “I look forward to being a part of a forward thinking, goal-driven team, and I am excited to work with industry leaders who are passionate about the impact Dunwoody has had on the community and their lives.”

Nelson comes to Dunwoody from the Pinky Swear Foundation, where he served as the organization’s President/CEO. During his time there, he grew the Foundation’s annual revenue from $900,000 to $2.8 million and expanded service to families in all 50 states. His portfolio includes working for William Mitchell College of Law, Children’s Cancer Research Fund, Allina Hospice Foundation, Memorial Blood Centers, and the American Cancer Society.

“I truly enjoy the interaction with donors,” Nelson shared. “It is amazing to learn about their lives, their connections to the institution, and how philanthropy can help shape their dreams and visions.”

During his spare time, Nelson enjoys playing golf, fishing, reading, remodeling and fixing things, and spending time with his family.

“I hope to provide value in building on Dunwoody’s culture of philanthropy and alumni engagement,” Nelson said. “And I look forward to helping further the mission of this institution.”

Nelson will replace current Vice President of Institutional Advancement Stuart Lang, who will retire later this year. Lang has been with the College for five years.

Nelson can be reached at bnelson@dunwoody.edu or at 612-381-3042.