Jesse Nye is one of four mechanical engineering technology students who are also working as interns at Pioneer Surgical Technology. Ever since Nye was seven years old, he has shown promise as an engineer. He grew up north of Ishpeming without the luxury of a playground; instead, he rode - and occasionally broke - dirt bikes. If he wanted to continue riding, he had to learn how to fix them as well.
“It was out of necessity,” says Nye. “I got a lot of hands-on experience with improvising and trying to make things work.”
For example, when Nye found he wasn’t strong enough as a boy to turn a ratchet on a tight bolt, he slid a three-foot-long pipe on the ratchet for leverage. He broke more than one ratchet that way, but the experience he gained led him to pursue other projects: he customized radio-controlled cars, converted a riding lawnmower into an all-terrain vehicle, and recently built a street-legal sand rail out of components taken from a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle in his spare time. He also is the drive-train team leader on NMU’s Baja team.
Today, Nye continues to use his ingenuity as an intern at Pioneer. He says he has enjoyed his experience so far at the Marquette-based company, which creates innovative medical devices.
“The people are very friendly and very knowledgeable,” Nye says. “Pioneer has an attitude that there’s nothing they can’t do. They can design, manufacture and sell anything. It’s been a huge learning experience. I’ve learned so much here in the last several months that I never could have fathomed in school.”
At the same time, Nye says, his classes at NMU have been exactly what he had hoped they would be when he first enrolled in the school.
“I can’t say enough about our professors,” he says. “When you think about big engineering schools, you think of a professor who just lectures and expects that to be it. These professors truly put so much time into their students, any time of the day during the week or on the weekend. I got lucky that I just fell into it because it was close to home, but I’m glad I didn’t go somewhere else. Northern has a huge edge over other schools that might have the same program, because you’re getting very close one-on-one attention.”
The relationship between Pioneer Surgical Technology and NMU grew naturally in part because of the close proximity, as Pioneer is less than one mile away from the Jacobetti Complex, where NMU’s Engineering Technology department holds classes.
In 2001, Pioneer worked closely with former manufacturing faculty member Tom Meravi to begin a certificate program that would supply Pioneer with machine operators. Pioneer, in turn, supplied NMU with the equipment and funds to run the program.
More recently, Pioneer has begun taking on mechanical engineering interns like Jesse Nye.
“There’s a real partnership between Pioneer and NMU,” says Mike Rudisill, head of the Engineering Technology department. “The internships allow them to look at the [mechanical engineering technology (MET)] graduates, and it gives our MET graduates excellent experience. We’ve supported them, and they’ve supported us. It’s an excellence opportunity.”
In addition to Nye, three other NMU students are interning at Pioneer. Tim Metulewicz, Craig Wiseman and Jason Lofquist all started at around the first of this year.
“This was a place I always wanted to work,” Wiseman says. “The way the school set it up, it made it easy.”
Wiseman adds that using the design software at Pioneer has required him to stretch his imagination and skills. Now, he feels that he can make anything with the design software. He says he has been prepared for his current role at Pioneer in part by the problem-solving mentality fostered at NMU.
One of Wiseman’s assignments has been to make the parts to a particular project less expensive and more easily manufactured, according to his supervisor, Scott Machalk, an Orthopaedic Engineering Specialist at Pioneer. Wiseman also works with solving issues with existing products.
“Many of the interns that work at Pioneer stay on after graduation and move directly into full-time employment,” Machalk says. “It is my hope, and I have no reason to doubt it, is that Craig will become fully capable of stepping right into an Engineering Position once he graduates. In fact, I’m not treating him any differently than I would if he had that position now. In other words, I feel that I am training him directly for this position.”
Thanks to the partnership between Pioneer and NMU, all of the interns can now develop their skills in a way that will prepare them to become productive engineers, whether they stay at Pioneer or find positions elsewhere. They are beginning the transition from the classroom to the design floor.“It’s not theory anymore,” Nye says, “it’s application.”