Alamance Community College graduate Jason Taylor holds a unique status among his classmates. In June, he became the first to earn all his credentials for an associate degree, diploma and certificate in the new Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) program.
One of the College’s newest degree programs, Mechanical Engineering Technology provides an education in mathematics, natural sciences, technology and engineering. Students learn to design, develop, and troubleshoot mechanical systems in the manufacturing or service sectors. The eclectic combo of courses includes blueprint reading, trigonometry, Computer-Aid Drafting (CAD), and three-dimensional solid modeling.
Jason went about his studies smartly, finishing his Mechanical Engineering Technology credentials in a single year because he stacked his credits previously earned in the Computer-Aid Drafting (CAD) program.
A Burlington native, Jason enlisted in the Army Reserve as an 88M Motor Transportation Operator and shipped to basic training two weeks after graduation from Southern Alamance High School. Deployed to Iraq twice, Jason learned responsibility as his duties there pushed him to new capabilities.
“On my second deployment in 2008, I was a sergeant commanding a team of seven soldiers, and served as platoon Maintenance Liaison, New Recruit Liaison, and our building’s Fire Marshall. I had those duties while also running missions,” he said.
Honorably discharged in 2009, Jason worked various jobs over the next few years as he navigated what he wanted to do. One career path that interested him originated during his senior year of high school, when he was accepted to a technical school in Raleigh to study art.
“I had wanted to get into animation, but I backed out at the time because I realized it was something I didn’t really want to do,” said Jason. “I knew I wanted a career where I could draw for a living, but I didn’t know any other paths to get me there and decided to just join the workforce after my military service.”
It took Jason’s spouse to convince him to return to school after a few years in the workforce with no firm plan for his future. But he had no clue what to study. Then his father-in-law, a draftsman, asked him if he had ever considered following in his footsteps because Jason had drawing skills.
Jason had never thought about drafting, but after looking into the nuts and bolts of that discipline, he loved the idea that drawings created by students can be turned into three-dimensional products. He realized that this type of creativity was what he was looking for in a career.
Jason visited Alamance Community College and talked with James Adkins, Department Head of the Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) program.
“Mr. Adkins showed me the 3D aspect of modern drafting, the solid modeling, and 3D printing. That was it, I was sold,” said Jason.
As a U.S. military veteran, Jason had the advantage of using his G. I. Bill to pay his tuition and books as a student at ACC.
“I was always hesitant to use my G.I. Bill funds because of how much of a hassle it can be,” said Jason. But the VA (Veterans Administration) rep at ACC, Feleta Morton, “made it too easy. I often bragged about her and the service she provides to veterans.”
If Jason had any apprehension about returning to school, he didn’t let those feelings stop him. He admittedly was only a “C” student in high school. But he found his niche in the Computer-Aided Drafting program, which he completed with Honors.
“I fell in love with solid modeling and 3D printing and couldn’t wait to start doing it on my own,” said Jason.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jason purchased his own 3D printer and learned that he could print ear savers–small, easy-to-print adapters that improve the fit of surgical and N95 masks. Using a 3D file for ear savers, Jason ultimately printed about 500 and donated most to frontline responders over the past year.
While he matriculated through the CAD program, Jason branched out by holding an officer position in the department’s Solid Modeling Club. He also attended local SolidWorks user group meetings to establish connections with professional designers.
“ACC’s Solid Modeling Club allowed me to network, not just within the CAD department but with other groups as well,” said Jason. “I got to see first-hand how what I’ve learned with CAD could be applied to other department programs. I was really amazed how we had the opportunity to share ideas with students in other college programs to collaborate with them.”
Upon earning his associate degree and accompanying credentials in the CAD program, Jason used the balance of his G.I. Bill funds to continue his education in the new Mechanical Engineering Technology program.
“I felt having credentials from both CAD and Mechanical Engineering would make me a more knowledgeable, well-rounded candidate for employment,” said Jason. “Mechanical Engineering expands your skills and knowledge, and goes into more detail in some of the material covered by the CAD program.”
“Both Computer-Aided Drafting and Mechanical Engineering Tech provide an opportunity for students to design a career path, earn an impressive income, and help others,” said James Adkins, CAD Department Head who also heads the Mechanical Engineering Tech program.
Jason shrunk the time it would take to earn his second degree by stacking his CAD credentials to earn the Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) degree. By stacking his credentials, Jason finished MET in one year because many of the credits he acquired in the CAD program overlapped with those required in MET.
“The fact that I wanted to complete school as soon as possible in order to begin my new career, coupled with the fact that I had one year left of military financial assistance, made it ideal for me,” said Jason.
Unexpectedly, Jason moved to Michigan prior to completing his classes because his wife’s employer transferred her. ACC worked with Jason to make certain the remaining classes he took at another location met the requirements for Mechanical Engineering Technology.
As the first graduate of ACC’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program, Jason Taylor may very well prove to be a guidepost for future students on how to go from zero to associate degree in twelve months in this much in demand 21st-century industrial career.