Students Philip Pleiss, David Terry and Jeffrey Capal receive assistance from Jared Daily, MPCC physics and engineering instructor, in building a prototype of a soybean thresher. The finished version will be used by UNL's West Central Research and Extension Center.
A new project at Mid-Plains Community College could have an impact on farmers across the state.
Students in Jared Daily's Introduction to Engineering Design class are designing a small soybean thresher for UNL's West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte.
"The machine the center has is huge," said David Terry, a MPCC engineering student from Ogallala. "They only bring it out when they have large amounts of crops to process. They've been doing the small stuff by hand up to this point."
Even if the thresher wasn't too big, it's outdated, according to Philip Pleiss, another engineering student from North Platte.
"It's from the '60s," said Pleiss. "It works, but isn't very efficient. It's really important that the researchers get accurate test data. When they use the current thresher, it collects in bulk, and when there is bulk, there is data loss. If we can simplify one part of the process for them, then it's a win."
The class conducted a similar project last year by building a small corn thresher for the research center.
"We try to solve a design problem of some kind every year," said Daily. "We also try to find projects that are as close to real-world engineering as possible."
Students spent the first half of the fall semester attending classroom-style lectures, studying textbooks and working on small projects. During the second half of the semester, they had to apply the knowledge and skills they gained to actual engineering processes.
"We always spend a week or two determining the client's problem," said Daily. "We dissect everything down to the basics. The engineering process is much more involved and time consuming than most people realize. About 75 percent of it is spent doing research and digital design before anything is actually built."
For Terry, who was unfamiliar with farm equipment, the project was a challenge.
"It took a lot of research," said Terry. "I had to start from scratch learning about the internal workings of combines and lots of other things I didn't know about."
Daily, however, was convinced the project was within the students' capabilities.
He was right.
The students began prototyping and testing their designs earlier this month.
"I've tried to teach them the importance of prototyping because that's something that's often overlooked – even by professionals," said Daily. "A lot of times people just want to jump right in and start building instead of taking the time to think a design through. The result is a design that is flawed."
The project has also taught the students skills not commonly associated with engineering.
"They've learned about scheduling, organization, teamwork – also a little bit about economics since they have to make something economically sound as well as physically sound," Daily said.
Student Jeffrey Capal, of North Platte, has found the whole process intriguing.
"It has been a lot of work, but it's important," said Capal. "Knowing how to use engineering design is useful no matter what profession you go into."
The students will resume the project when they return from semester break. Their goal is to deliver their designs to the research center in the spring or summer.
Jessica Eckhout, of Amherst, takes a test at Mid-Plains Community College. Eckhout is currently studying business administration at MPCC.
Sometimes students learn just as much outside the classroom as in it.
That's the idea behind the internships required of business students at Mid-Plains Community College.
"The internship is one of the best things the students do," said Cathy Nutt, business instructor. "They have to get a job and work with someone in a business area, and that experience is invaluable."
More than simply acquiring a skill to list on a résumé, the internships provide students with an opportunity to find a career they really enjoy, and sometimes, an opportunity to find themselves.
"It's growth in a real-world setting," said Nutt. "The internships allow students to try out a profession without having to commit to it and learn from the experts in the process."
Internships are customized for each student with help from MPCC's business instructors. That's not unusual considering the instructors walk alongside the students on every step of their educational journey at Mid-Plains – offering advice and support whenever needed.
"That's one of the things that makes MPCC so unique," said Nutt. "We aren't just teaching classes, we're working one-on-one with the students to make sure they get what they need to reach their dreams."
The fact that classes are small helps a lot with that. So does the fact that business instructors often have the same students in multiple classes.
"We get to know the students and understand their personalities," said Nutt. "That type of connection allows us to better tailor programs to fit their needs."
Sometimes, the need is continuing on to a four-year college or university after graduation, in which case MPCC has transfer business classes available.
MPCC's partnerships with Chadron State College, Bellevue University and Fort Hays State University allow students to pursue a bachelor's, or even a master's degree, without ever stepping foot off a Mid-Plains campus.
Most classes are provided online or via distance learning. Others are available through self-study correspondence. The partnering schools have offices on MPCC campuses to better assist students in those locations.
"I always encourage my students to go after both an Associate of Science degree and an Associate of Applied Science degree," said Nutt. "That way they have the skills to go to work and also the academic skills to transfer on. We never know where life will take us. It's best to be prepared for anything."
Not everyone can boast about winning the World Series.
Garrett Nokes can.
The McCook cowboy took first place in the #12 Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale on Tuesday night alongside his roping partner, Scott Smith, of Wray, Colo.
The men roped four steers in a total time of 30.82 seconds. It earned them $290,000 - part of $1.7 million the WSTR is paying out to contestants this year.
"It was awesome," said Nokes. "It was one of those deals you try to prepare for, but when you're backing into the box for that kind of money – you just try to go back to doing the same thing you've done for $300 on a Wednesday night."
It's the same advice he gives to students on the Mid-Plains Community College Rodeo Team that he coaches.
"I actually had to practice what I preach," said Nokes with a laugh. "But in all seriousness, I just tried to stay aggressive and get the steers roped, and it worked. It was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity, but it was pretty cool."
Nokes earned the trip to the WSTR after winning a team roping in Torrington, Wyo. on New Year's Eve a year ago. It was his fourth qualification.
The past two years at the WSTR, Nokes made the Top 40 round, but ran into bad luck once he got there. Contestants earn $3,000 just for qualifying for the short go, so he never left Vegas completely empty-handed.
This year, however, Nokes was there to win. He beat out 507 other teams for a spot in the roping box during the final round.
"The average on three head decides who goes to the short round," said Nokes. "We were the fastest team on three, so we roped last in the finals. That was a lot of pressure. We knew we had to rope at least a 9 flat to win."
They did even better than that – stretching out their final steer in a time of 8.66 seconds.
A little history
Nokes is no stranger to the winner's circle. In 2005, he qualified for the Wrangler Nationals Finals Rodeo in steer wrestling and placed fourth in the world standings.
He's up to $719,759 in career earnings through the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which he has been a member of since 1996.
Nokes was also the Nebraska State Rodeo Association's "Rookie of the Year" in 1996, the all-around champion in 2011 and 2014 and the tie-down champion in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
He was the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association's all-around champion in 1996, 2010, 2012 and 2014, the steer wrestling champion in '96 and the tie-down roping champion in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
He's also won numerous all-around titles at area rodeos such as the National Western Stock Show in Denver in 2005 and Cheyenne Frontier Days in 2006. Additionally, Nokes is a three-time Prairie Circuit steer wrestling and all-around champion and was the 2007 tie-down roping champion.
When not competing, Nokes can be found helping the next generation of timed event athletes as a coach for the MPCC Rodeo Team.
He currently, lives on a farm south of McCook with his wife, Laura, and sons, Trevor and Parker. Together they raise crops, cattle and performance horses. Garrett is also a crop insurance agent for First Crop Insurance, LLC.
The World Series
The World Series of Team Roping started in 2006 as a recreational diversion for cowboys during the National Finals Rodeo. It has since exploded into the richest team roping event in the world, and the second richest equine event in the world. The payout for each division smashed all previous historical records for the sport.
Chantel Burch is presented with a You Rock Award on Wednesday morning in the North Platte Community College South Campus Welcome Center. Pictured left to right are Burch and Jamie Peters, area assistant director of Human Resources.
Chantel Burch is the recipient of a "You Rock Award" from North Platte Community College.
Burch, a Welcome Center assistant on NPCC's South Campus, was recognized Wednesday for demonstrating exemplary internal customer service. She was nominated by her coworkers.
"I appreciate how Chantel looks at ways to improve what we do," said Andy Long, area vice-president of student affairs. "Her efforts to create a shared Google document for Registration Day really helped us give the individual attention we want for our students."
Michelle Sterling, also a Welcome Center assistant, described Burch as someone who goes above and beyond for both students and employees at the college.
"Chantel has helped students with their schedules, finding classrooms and making appointments with advisors," said Sterling. "She is extremely efficient and is more than ready to take on a new project or challenge. Her attitude is always a positive one, which can become infectious."
Other coworkers echoed those sentiments and lauded Burch for her intelligence, organization and computer skills.
"Chantel and I may work on different campuses, but we are constantly coordinating on room reservations, supply ordering and many other tasks," said Tara Naughtin, administrative assistant for the college's vice president of academic affairs and NPCC. "Chantel has been open to taking on additional duties from other departments such as organizing a campus-wide event. She completes her work efficiently and always has a friendly demeanor. Her clever wit is most appreciated."
Jessica Fernandez moved to North Platte specifically to enroll in the Bridge Grant Program. She's originally from Fort Pierre, S.D.
Mid-Plains Community College wants everyone to have the opportunity to go to college if they would like to do so. The Bridge Grant Program is one way to make that happen.
The idea behind the program is to prepare adults for entry or re-entry into the workforce by teaching them specific skill sets that improve their chances of obtaining employment or increasing wages.
The target audience is non-traditional students, low-income individuals and GED recipients. Those who are eligible may receive financial assistance with tuition, fees and books.
One of the biggest benefits to the Bridge Grant Program is that it allows students to transition into a college setting gradually. They begin with a summer class, during which they learn about college expectations and form a support group with their peers.
Once they are settled in, students follow a strict attendance policy, have a study lab twice a week, job shadow, learn about career expectations, participate in an etiquette lunch, receive help with résumés and cover letters and sit through mock job interviews.
"The hope is that after students finish the Bridge Grant Program, they will continue to work toward an associate degree, which will enable them to become even more marketable in the workforce," said Teresa Piccolo, program coordinator.
The 2017-18 Bridge Grant Program allows students to earn a Medical Office Technology certificate in just 10 months. During the 2018-19 school year, Bridge students will pursue an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Office Technology with a Medical emphasis.
Members of the Mid-Plains Community College chapter of the Nebraska State Student Nurses Association hold the winning tickets from a raffle they conducted over the past month.
Pictured back row, left to right are: Stacie Marquez, Shayla Tallmon and Brandy Lewandowski. Middle row, left to right are: Heidi Button and Christina Blanton. Front row, left to right are: Jenn Kleewein, Sabrina Stineman and Marleine Emanuel.
The raffle winners and their prizes were: Sew Creative Sewing Center - $500 Eagle Radio advertisement package, Don Milroy – two general admission tickets to the NEBRASKAland Days Florida Georgia Line concert and Stacy Mann – a $100 spa package.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will help the nursing students travel to the National Student Nurses' Association 66th Annual Convention in Nashville in April.
The public will get its first look at the 2018 North Platte Community College Foundation Auction House this week. A sneak peek of the home is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Thursday on NPCC's North Campus, 1101 Halligan Drive.
According to Roger Fattig, building construction instructor, the house is about 75percent complete.
"While the house is still in the construction cycle, those considering a home purchase, can stop by and see what will be completed and sold this spring," said Fattig. "We still have cabinetry, casework, floor coverings and lots of details not finished."
Every year, students in the college's Building Construction, Electrical and Heating Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC-R) Technology programs construct a house from the ground up as part of their training.
In the process, they gain hands-on, real-world experience and an appreciation for quality craftsmanship that they can take with them into the workforce.
The house is then sold via silent auction, and the proceeds are used for scholarships for NPCC's building trade students.
Student-built houses, resident living spaces and office buildings have been part of the Building Construction program's tradition of hands-on learning since 1971.
The bidding process for the 2018 auction house will begin at 1 p.m. April 2, starting with a minimum bid of $127,500. Bids will close at 2 p.m. May 4. No online bids will be accepted past noon on that day.
Further details regarding the house, the auction and other processes may be found on the college's website at: mpcc.edu.
The public can tour the house from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment, up until the date it is sold. Appointments for tours can be scheduled through the North Campus Welcome Center, 535-3601. Those interested in more information about the house can contact Fattig at 535-3646, or email@example.com.
Susan Marquez has been named Business Student of the Month for December at North Platte Community College. She was nominated by Jimi Cole, a business instructor at the college.
"Susan is a very hard worker who is selflessly willing to help others in and out of the classroom," said Cole. "She has set high goals for herself and is returning to NPCC for a third year to obtain a second degree. It has been a pleasure to get to know Susan and to be a part of this journey with her."
Marquez, of North Platte, received a GED in 1992. She is currently pursuing an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business with emphases in Accounting and Business Administration.
She has an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Office Technology with a Medical emphasis and certificates in Medical Billing and Coding, Medical Office Technology and Medical Transcription, all of which she received from NPCC.
"I had been married for 27 years and decided to attend college after getting divorced," said Marquez. "The business faculty has been very supportive. They helped me believe in my abilities and encouraged me to leave my comfort zone and try new things. That led to me going to state last year for PBL and receiving the Who's Who in Nebraska award."
Marquez is actively involved with the Phi Beta Lambda organization. She is also employed as a work-study and serves as a tutor in her spare time. Her anticipated graduation date is May of 2018.
"Right now, I'm doing an internship with the [North Platte Area Ready to Serve Volunteer Program]," said Marquez. "My plan for the future is to find a job that I love."
When not studying, Marquez enjoys spending time with her family, which includes four children and 10 grandchildren. She also likes to read and crochet.
Jared Most, of Brady, completes an assignment at Mid-Plains Community College on Wednesday. Most is taking business classes at MPCC.
A career in business isn't just versatile – it's secure.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts more than 750,000 new business and financial operation jobs will be needed by 2026 due to globalization, a growing economy and a complex tax and regulatory environment. Even without the anticipated growth - business skills are in demand.
"Business is part of everything, regardless of the career," said Angie Chittick, business and office technology instructor at Mid-Plains Community College. "Marketing, accounting, management, customer service, technology - every company and organization needs employees with those skills."
Jessica Eckhout, of Amherst, takes a test Wednesday at Mid-Plains Community College. Eckhout is currently studying business administration at MPCC.
MPCC offers training for careers in business. One of the options is the Associate of Applied Science degree in Business with an emphasis in Business Administration.
The program prepares students for jobs in the fields of banking, insurance, finance management, office supervision, real estate and sales and marketing. The degree can be completed entirely online. On-site and distance learning options are available as well.
MPCC also offers a Business Administration Academic Transfer degree, which prepares students for progression to a four-year program. Students gain skills in accounting, management, marketing and business technologies.
Graduates of both programs tend to leave with more than they bargained for. That includes the abilities to adapt to emerging technologies, collaborate and work as part of a team, think outside the box and apply problem-solving techniques to real-life situations. They also improve their written and verbal communication skills.
Madison Hoatson, of Sutherland, takes a test at Mid-Plains Community College on Wednesday. Hoatson is taking business classes at MPCC.
"Students end up feeling more confident, not only in themselves, but also in their ability to work with others," said Chittick. "Business classes provide the foundation to be successful in life. Not only do they enhance employability and develop the critical skills needed to excel in today's job market – they also help students reach their dreams."
Barnum checks the blood pressure on Dalton Billups with help from instructor
Gloria Robinson. The procedure was part of a nursing assistant class at
Mid-Plains Community College.
Demand for nursing assistant and medication aide training is on the rise at Mid-Plains Community College.
New reports show that 189 students were enrolled in MPCC's Nursing Assistant program in 2015. This year, that figure jumped to 262. The medication aide program also saw an increase – from 70 students in 2015 to 80 this year.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that more nursing and health occupation programs are now requiring their students to take a nursing assistant course," said Brett Niemeth, nursing support coordinator for MPCC. "Last year, we had several students from Bryan College of Health Sciences in Lincoln taking nurse aide classes through us. They were pursuing speech therapy and interventional radiology."
Nursing assistants, or nurse aides, provide basic care for patients in a variety of settings including hospitals, residential/long-term care facilities and in-home care. Often, they are also responsible for lifting, moving and transporting patients.
With additional training, nursing assistants can become medication aides, allowing them to dispense medications to patients while under the direction and oversight of a licensed health care professional.
Brannan, of Hershey, rolls a compression stocking onto the leg of a mannequin
as part of a nursing assistant class at Mid-Plains Community College.
MPCC offered a total of 38 nurse aide and medication aide classes this year. Another 30 people used the college to regain certification in those areas after their credentials lapsed.
"We have eight more scheduled to retest this month," said Niemeth. "The jobs are definitely there. All the nursing homes in our service area are short-staffed. We've also seen an increased demand for in-home care. I've had several calls from people looking for referrals because they either don't want to put their loved ones in a nursing home, or insurance won't pay for it."
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services recently surveyed MPCC's nursing assistant program, something it does every two years to make sure programs remain in compliance with state and federal requirements.
MPCC's program received a clean review with no recommendations.
"It's an awesome feeling to get those results, and it's something to really be proud of," said Niemeth. "It also confirms what we already knew – that our nursing assistant program is growing, thriving and exceeding expectations. A lot of credit has to go to the 13 adjunct instructors who helped make that success possible. It takes a team effort."
MPCC offers nurse aide and medication aide classes in seven locations within its 18-county service area: McCook, North Platte, Imperial, Ogallala, Broken Bow, Valentine and Mullen. More information about the programs is available online at mpcc.edu.
Heather produces and distributes press releases for the college. She began work at MPCC in 2014. Prior to that, she spent five years as the news director/web manager for Eagle Radio in North Platte. From 2009-2014 she worked as a reporter/photographer for The North Platte Telegraph. Heather has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Chadron State College.
Area Communications Specialist
Brent L. Cobb
McCook Community College News Bureau Coordinator