Heavy Equipment Program: Hands On Learning

by Nancy Stephen

On an average week, students enrolled in Ferris State University's Heavy Equipment Program attend two to three lectures and one lab for each heavy equipment class. All this activity takes place in a building known as the Heavy Equipment Center. Taking up one wing of the complex, a large service floor with overhead doors on both sides allows equipment to come in and out both sides of the building. Here the students work on equipment, engines, transmissions, hydraulics, brakes, etc.

"I chose the program at Ferris because I enjoy working on equipment and wanted to work in a very hands-on industry," said Megan Cramer. "We study ag equipment, construction equipment and trucking equipment." Megan graduated with her Associate in Applied Science in May 2017. She is currently a junior and on track to complete her Bachelor's degree in 2019, with a minor in Fleet Management, at Ferris State University and is one of only two women currently enrolled in the Heavy Equipment Program.

Hands on Learning 2

Founded in 1884, Ferris State University accepted female students beginning with its first graduating class. Exposing female students to female role models can make a big difference in encouraging them to consider engineering technology career options. The number of female students enrolled in these types of programs at Ferris is growing steadily, which may be due in part to the Women in Technology (WIT) organization that creates mentoring opportunities and challenges gender stereotypes.


In an effort to bring students closer together as colleagues and friends and to supplement classroom studies, a student-led organization holds meetings, plans field trips and hosts industry speakers. Last year, she served as the treasurer for the Association of Heavy Equipment Technology. The organization operates a non-profit repair facility in Big

Rapids, Michigan and works on equipment that is brought in from area farms. As treasurer, she was responsible for creating customer invoices and collecting payment for completed work.

"This year I started as Vice President and was then voted in as President," said Megan. "As President, I am in charge of running the organization, conducting meetings and overseeing all of the projects."

"I found it important to take a leadership role because it allows me to learn more about running a shop or a business and allows me to learn more about all of the equipment we bring in as projects."

Hands on Learning 3 Megan along with a small group of students and professors from the Association of Heavy Equipment Technology recently attended the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky. Megan is pictured in the center.


"Through Ferris, I have learned even more about the importance of the ag industry and about how as a technician or a manager, we need to work really hard to get equipment in the shop and back out as soon as possible so that the operator can get back to what they need to do. These farmers need their equipment to do their job; and by doing my job well, but also quickly, they can get back to their job."

Hands on Learning 4 An advocate for women in science and engineering professions, Megan's grandma, a retired chemist professor, was a huge influence on Megan's interest in science and engineering.


Outside the Classroom

Gaining additional hands on experience, Megan has spent her summers doing internships.

The first was for a hydraulic company, Mason Dynamics, Inc. where she was responsible for shipping and receiving, parts counter assistance, parts retrieval, customer service, inventory and preventative maintenance.

Next, she interned at a public school in the transportation department, where she worked on buses. The fleet included around 70 school busses and other district vehicles. "Working in the bus garage taught me skills in the areas of fleet management, preventative maintenance and self-sufficiency."

"Last summer, I worked as a technician at Wolf Kubota, a dealership in West Michigan," said Megan. Most work was preventative maintenance (oil changes, transmission/hydraulic oil changes, filter changes and inspections), but she also did repairs. "I worked mainly on smaller utility tractors but was able to work on medium sized tractors and skid steers. I diagnosed and fixed no start conditions, oil leaks, coolant leaks, and some front-end differential repairs."

"This summer, I will be working for Consumers Energy [a Michigan public utility company] in their fleet division," said Megan. Fleet management interests her because it will allow her to work with a variety of equipment while minimizing the cost spent on equipment, improving efficiency and increasing safety.

"When I graduate, I am hoping to work in fleet management and start my own farm raising beef cattle, horses and chickens. I want a farm that's large enough to be able to handle everything I want to do but still small enough that I can still have a career."

"Hands On Learning" was republished in the May/June 2018 issue of Pink Tractor magazine.

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