Service-learning gives Pellissippi State Community College students an opportunity to learn while improving the community. In some cases, that means improving Pellissippi State’s campuses, too.
Just ask Ted Maitlen and Ben Manuel, two students in Engineering Technology’s Mechanical Engineering concentration who spent summer semester creating metal frames to display fliers at the Division Street Campus.
The college’s Service-Learning program integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.
“It’s more than I asked for—way more,” said Esther Dyer, dean of the Division Street Campus, after viewing the frame’s prototype in the Mechanical Engineering lab. “Your design will be in big demand,” she told the students. “It’s beautiful.”
The display frame is roughly a yard square, made of aluminum and designed to hold up to eight fliers. Plexiglas covers the front and holds the papers in place. For Maitlen and Manuel, the project differs from previous MET coursework in at least two ways.
First, there were no specifications at the outset.
“This is different because we had no prints provided for us,” said Maitlen, a 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran. “This is something we had to envision and draw out.”
He and Manuel also crafted a metal replica of the Pellissippi State shield as a centerpiece to the frame.
Second, they had a client.
As they designed and created the frames, they involved Dyer throughout the process. They also had a manager to answer to: Pat Riddle, MET faculty member and program coordinator. Riddle met with Dyer initially and proposed the project for Service-Learning.
“What they’ve done exactly mimics what they would have to do in industry to produce a product—all the way from conception to final installation of the product,” he said.
The project required the students to draw on everything they have learned at Pellissippi State, from MET classes to English, math and science. That is typical in Service-Learning.
“It’s about how to take all these—what seem to be disparate things that you’ve learned—and how to integrate those, so that you have the skills and knowledge it takes to actually perform at a level of expectation, not just in a school but within an organization,” Riddle said.
The first display frame is one of five in production for the Division Street Campus. Dyer, who took over at the campus in the spring, came up with the idea when she noticed fliers hanging in the hallways. Putting the fliers in displays makes them more visible and helps “accentuate” their message, she says.
As part of the MET capstone, the students will document the project so that someone else can either recreate it or use it as a basis for development of another product.
Pellissippi State launched its Service-Learning initiative last fall with workshops for interested faculty. The college began offering service-learning-based classes spring semester.
Students worked with several community partners this year, but that work does not always have to take place outside of campus, as Maitlen and Manuel have shown.
“It’s a great example of how Service-Learning can bring together administration, faculty and students in a situation where everyone benefits,” said Annie Gray, English faculty member and Service-Learning coordinator. “In other words, our community partner can be the college just as easily as it can be a nonprofit outside the college.”
Learn more about Pellissippi State at www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.