By Tim Leeds
Students in the Ag Mech Tech programs at Montana State University-Northern received some specialized information on Caterpillar equipment Wednesday.
Randy Riggin, representative for Tractors and Equipment (T & E), was on the campus to give information on transmissions, hydraulics, electronic engine controls, air conditioning, diagnostic procedures and schematics.
Riggin came as part of the department's T & E and Caterpillar Excellence Day. T & E, with main offices in Billings and a store in Great Falls, paid for Riggins' time at the workshop.
Mike Wojtowick, professor emeritus at the Ag Mech Tech Department, donated the use of a Cat Challenger during the workshop, and Patrick Construction donated the use of a 983 Cat loader. Greg Clouse of the Ag Mech Tech Department said the use of the equipment for just a couple of days was worth several thousand dollars. Riggin said it cost several hundred dollars just to haul the equipment to the Farm Mechanics building at the campus.
Clouse said between T & E and Caterpillar, the department has received more than $100,000 in donations.
"That's real cash they've given to us," said Lynn Stilger of the Ag Mech Tech Department.
He said T & E and other companies are also major sponsors of the university's chapter of the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America.
Clouse said the workshop is a true example of teamwork between industry and higher education. He said firms like T & E hire the university's students and support the programs to train them in the industry.
Stilger said Caterpillar representatives from Pape Bros. and Heister out of Eugene, Ore. were also on campus Wednesday. Clouse said the program is so successful, with more than 200 students majoring in Ag Mech Tech programs, the company reps still have a hard time finding many students to hire.
"(The students have) already got high paying jobs lined up," he said.
Riggin said T & E benefits greatly from doing these projects.
"We like to work with them really close," he said. "We like to come up and show how our systems work. It's good for us. The more familiar they are with our stuff, the more likely we'll be able to hire them. It works for everybody; works for Northern, Cat, us; works for everyone."
Wane Boysun of the Ag Mech Tech program said the information Riggin presented would be used throughout the program. He said while the information was specific to Caterpillar systems, it can be applied to many other systems as well.
Kevin Johnson of the Ag Mech Tech program said much of the information on Caterpillar systems can also be applied to diesel engines in passenger vehicles or other brands of heavy equipment, and can give a better understanding of systems used in gasoline engines.
Boysun said the Ag Mech Tech program combines curriculum for the students in the diesel, automotive and farm mechanics programs, which gives them a much broader exposure to technology, and gives them a well-rounded education in the field. He said this also makes the department much more efficient.
Clouse said having industry reps give the students current information on cutting edge technology helps make the program as successful as it is. He said Darryll Thackeray, dean of the College of Technical Sciences, has been very supportive of activities like this in the program.
"We've had wonderful support from the administration," he said.