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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Industrial Maintenance Technology students are smokin’

June 21, 2016

Fresno BBQ project in Industrial Maintenance Tech programAt 12 ft. long, 6 ft. wide and 800 lbs., the humongous BBQ smoker 10 Fresno Industrial Maintenance Tech students recently built easily qualifies as commercial size. It dwarfs previous BBQs made by students in the Fresno program as part of their Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) course project, which is designed to give them hands-on welding and fabrication experience.

“I don’t think any of us had Mig welding experience,” says Industrial Maintenance Technology student Frederick Ramos, “and everybody got a chance to do that.” Frederick explained that the more common stick welding is metal connected to the ground and melting, wherein Mig welding, there is a continuous flow of wire that feeds the line.

They took their design high-end with LED lights and a stereo system with iPod connection, AM/FM, bluetooth and CD capacity with two speakers – ready to complete a tailgate party or company event. The meat cavity is about 5 ft. by 2 ft., and the fire box is both coal- and wood-burning.

“Almost four years ago, employers who hire our Industrial Maintenance Technology grads expressed the need for them to have welding and fabrication training,” says Chris Barger, Assessment Coordinator and instructor. “We were absolutely excited to introduce a new element to the program and worked it into the curriculum.”

Industrial Maintenance Technology students get to select their build project to fulfill the requirements of this class. In the past, they have built utility trailers, a welding table, smaller BBQs, made modifications to a hydraulic wood splitter and even constructed a baseball-pitch-at-plate carnival game. One time, students welded a mount for an electric winch on an equipment trailer.

But nothing has ever been quite to the same level as this smoker.

Students spent eight class nights on this oversized project, and there may have been a little misjudgment along the way. But that’s how students get to learn…through experience. “They got the geometry off at one point, setting the axle and suspension,” says Chris. “But the beautiful part is they can just cut it off, grind it, and fix the mistake.” A pretty easy do-over.

This kind of project tightens a team in ways independent study and work never quite can. “I think it brought everybody closer together, working together as a group,” says Frederick. “We handle stress and celebrate success.”

Finally, their slow-cooking beast was ready for inspection…and a test drive.

The BBQ smoker was evaluated for it craftsmanship, and Industrial Maintenance Technology students received high marks for good use of skills taught in the class.

“Students are very pleased and very proud – and they should be,” says Chris. “And, so am I.”

The taste-test came in two parts: First, it happened at a High School Bash for seniors visiting the campus. “We grilled up about 200 hot dogs,” says Chris. Then it was a tri-tip and chicken slow cook for Industrial Maintenance Tech students to celebrate the completion of their 10-week PLC course. “I think they all enjoyed it,” says Chris.

This course will start again in November and another two-week build project will be on the syllabus. “The class will decide on what to build as a group, and I will go out and get the materials,” says Chris.

Funding for each project comes from the sale of the previous build. But it looks as though this class prize may have found a home on the Fresno campus.

“Everybody seems to always have something going on, like CMA (Clinical Medical Assisting) Week or some fundraiser,” says Frederick. “Why not use the smoker (food sales) to help raise money for clubs and organizations on campus? Helping one another would be a great idea.”

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