Learning New Career Paths Through CWI

Published: September 27, 2022


Hometown: Kuna, Idaho

Degree: Advanced Mechatronics Engineering Technology

Scholarships: Nagel Foundation

On a typical afternoon during the week, chances are you can find College of Western Idaho (CWI) student, Michael Hertel, working away on projects inside a classroom at the Nampa Campus Micron Education Center (NMEC).

This week’s project? A panel that can hold input and output devices he’s designing for his Advanced Mechatronics Engineering Technology’s Fundamentals of Microcontrollers (AMET 196) class.

“I am a lab assistant with the College’s Work-Study Program, which means while I attend school, I work for the school as well,” Hertel said. “In my off time, I am able to work in the lab and get paid for that work, whether that’s for collecting inventory in the labs or building stuff for instructors’ classes and labs.” 

This is Hertel’s third semester taking Mechatronics classes with the College which he said has been a “challenging but fun journey.” But how he got to CWI’s mechatronics program is a bit of a journey in itself.

Prior to CWI, he was an aircraft mechanic for the U.S. Air Force, where he was learning to work with his hands to help build and fix equipment.

“When I was separated from the military, I wasn’t really trained to do something else, so I needed to go back to school. The closest thing to what I was doing before was being a vehicle mechanic, so that’s how I started out with the College in its Heavy Equipment Technician program.”

After graduating with Magna Cum Laude from CWI, Hertel got a job with a mining group out in Soda Springs, Idaho, as a heavy equipment mechanic. He attributes his instructors as huge help for landing him this role and getting him out into the workforce so quickly upon graduation.

“CWI has a reputation for putting out great technicians and workers.”

During his time with the College, Hertel learned he had an affinity for electrical and hydraulic work and enjoyed designing systems within it — which he became curious to learn more about. However, because he was already offered a job, he continued on in the Heavy Equipment industry.

Hertel still made a promise to himself.

“I swore that someday I would go back to school for electrical engineering.”

Then came 2020, when Hertel was, unfortunately, let go from his job with the mining group. 

But where one journey ended, another began for Hertel as this gave him the push to move back to the Treasure Valley, reapply to CWI, and make his dream of becoming an engineer a reality.

“CWI is a great school, very professional. The caliber of students and instructors here is pretty high. While it may be challenging at times, the programs and classes teach you a lot of what you need to know in these fields. The instructors know what they’re talking about and have a lot of experience with what you would see outside of a classroom setting.”

Hertel is the recipient of a $3,500 Nagel Foundation scholarship for the 2022-2023 academic year, which he said will help him now and into the future.

“The support from this scholarship will help me pay off the loans I took out to enroll in the Advanced Mechatronics Program. I would also like to put some of the money towards specialized test equipment that I do not yet own, such as an oscilloscope. The scholarship also makes a big impact on my quality of living as well, since I'm currently unemployed, to better focus on my studies and take part in the work-study program.”

Once Hertel’s time with CWI comes to an end, he hopes to enter an engineering career where he can do systems design, whether that’s hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, or mix of it all. Whatever road his journey in life takes him on next he welcomes it.

The scholarship period for the 2022 – 2023 academic year is open through Nov. 15, 2022.

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