Paying it forward

Aviation Technician program

Aviation students get new experiential learning opportunity thanks to a generous donor.

It is not everyday students in Mohawk’s Aviation Technician program are given the chance to build their own Murphy Rebel airplane.

When Reinhold Dresler, pilot and close friend of recent graduates Torsten Huhse '20 and Denis Ranque '18, offered them a Murphy Rebel kit, they saw an opportunity. Knowing the large amount of time, effort, and cost required to assemble and maintain an aircraft on their own, they wondered about the viability of donating it to Mohawk College for future Aviation students to work on it. Aviation program professors and Reinhold were thrilled at the idea, knowing it would benefit hands-on student learning.

Torsten, who helped facilitate the donation process between Reinhold and the Mohawk College Foundation, feels that it will help students perfect their maintenance skills before embarking into careers. He has recently obtained a short-term contract as a teaching assistant in the Aviation program in which he will be assisting current students and working alongside his professors who have taught him many invaluable skills.

"I hope it encourages students to strive for more perfection in their work. Working on a project is good and challenging, but it still is "just" a project, and mistakes are inconsequential. Working on a real aircraft totally changes that mindset - you are aware that each hole drilled wrong will need to be repaired, every cut that is off needs to be corrected, or possibly a whole piece needs to be replaced."

In the Avionics program, students must complete a mandatory amount of classroom and lab hours to graduate. Mohawk’s Associate Dean of Engineering Technology, George Miltenburg, says there are thousands of hours of work ahead to complete the plane, with a variety of work that spans across the different streams of the Avionics program. Students in the structures stream have already began to work on the construction of the airplane. Upon completion, students in the maintenance stream can put in an engine to make it run. Finally, the electrical technology students will wire it and complete it.

"This one donation will lead to a perpetual project for all Avionics students, so they will stay meaningfully engaged while taking a program that has mandatory attendance requirements."

Students can also volunteer to work on the plane outside of class and lab hours, as some did during their reading week.

By Cheryl Stornelli '07

This was originally posted in the Spring 2021 online InTouch magazine.