Industrial Electronics

The Industrial Electronics Program, offered in the spring term of 1965-66, was one of the first educational programs at the College.  It was initially housed in Center One in West Des Moines, but moved to expanded facilities in Center Two in August of 1966.  Program graduates have always received a two-year degree.
The first faculty member and program chair was Bobby Barons, who was succeeded by Tom Dunsmore in 1968.  Several faculty members joined the program during the first four years including John Arbuckle, Jerry Corringan, Milford Ludwig, and Dennis Branigan.  Dunsmore, Arbuckle, and Ludwig continued with the program until their retirements in the 1990's.

Catalogue description of the initial program:  The Industrial Electronics curriculum is designed to prepare the student for entry level positions as an electronics technician.  The electronics technician assists the engineer and holds a position between the engineer and skilled craftsmen.  He assists in planning, research, developments, and design.  He utilizes his training, knowledge and skills in trouble shooting electronic equipment, performing operations and calculations, testing and reporting.

The student recruitment goal for the program was 24 students for many years.

The program has always relied on an active and supportive advisory committee.  Committee members were primarily from industrial companies and organizations in the area including Maytag, Pella Rolscreen, Armstrong Tire, Fisher Controls, John Deere, and Iowa State University Extension.  The committee was especially helpful in assisting the faculty in the development of program curriculum; identifying areas of concentration and defining the competencies the student should have to be considered for employment.  Members also assisted in student placement, including hiring graduates in their companies.

With the help of advisory committee member Ron Crow at Iowa State University (ISU), the program established an early articulation agreement with the Industrial Technology (IT) Department at ISU that allowed students in the program to transfer several courses.

There were several challenges in starting the program:

  1. Remodeling the rented facility (formerly a roller rink) to provide classrooms and a lab for the program.
  2. Recruiting students to a new and unknown program.
  3. Recruiting instructors with the industry experience, knowledge, and teaching experience.
  4. Securing the specialized equipment needed to support the program.  (Rationale needed to be developed to receive approval from the Iowa Department of Public Instruction, the state agency responsible for determining how federal vocational funds for equipment would be allocated to area school vocational programs.) 
  5. The major ongoing instructional challenge was the ability to respond to the numerous and rapid changes in the field.  This program originated when electronic data systems were in their first stages and applications in virtually every workplace setting were only a dream. Subsequently, the changes were rapid and frequent, and required constant study.  This meant acquiring new and broader skills by faculty, changes in methods and student expectations to keep pace with industry changes.

Three major revisions of the curriculum have occurred since the program's inception in 1967.  Each can be described as changes in student learning focus areas:

  • 1980's -- Industrial Electronics changed to a hi-tech core with three 2nd year options:  Computer Technology, Biomedical, and Industrial
  • Early 1990's -- Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) - A manufacturing cell and
    associated courses added to the Industrial Option [Robotics, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC's), Computer Numerical Control (CNC), etc.]
  • Mid 1990's -- Computer Networking courses and certification added to the Computer
    option.  (Novell Network)

The program developed and provided a number of supplemental courses for employed workers in industry over the years; some were taught by program faculty, others by adjunct instructors.  Many were tailored to the specific requirements of an industry.  Several of the courses included: Direct Current/Alternating Current (DC/AC), Solid State, Digital Electronics, Microprocessors, Motor Control, and PLC's.  Tom Gerdet, a college industrial coordinator, assisted the faculty in identifying and responding to needs that industry had identified.


  • The faculty took personal responsibility, with the help of the recruitment staff, to acquaint perspective students about the uniqueness of the program and the math skills they would need to demonstrate to be successful graduates.
  • Job placement of graduates has always approached or been 100%.
  • Graduates have received high ratings by their satisfied employers.
  • From the inception there was a collegial atmosphere in the program with mutual support among faculty, as well as close teacher/student relationships.