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July 02, 2014 | Tom Ballard

GUEST COLUMN: Roane State’s composites courses just what this student wanted

RSCC(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was submitted by Owen Driskill, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Roane State Community College.)

Roane State Community College’s composite materials courses were just the challenge Dana Hudson wanted.

Hudson, of Knoxville, completed three introductory courses in composite materials through the college’s Advanced Composites Employment (ACE) program. Hudson had taken college courses on and off for years. Her previous college work paid off, because the number of college credits Hudson had completed qualified her to take the composite materials courses at no cost.

“It was a great experience, and it challenged me in some ways that I needed to be challenged,” Hudson said. “I learned a lot, and the courses added to my resume. The first night I was ready to quit, but I stuck with it and learned a lot, and I feel very proud of the achievement. Like I told my kids, you are never too old to learn.”

Roane State offers specialized composite materials courses as part of its Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in General Technology. Composite materials, such as carbon fiber, are used to make automotive body parts, pontoon boats, wind turbine blades, and much more.

Through ACE, students can take Introduction to Composite Materials, Introduction to Composite Manufacturing Methods and Applied Production Methodology.

“ACE is an excellent way to add specific marketable skills to a degree,” said program director Andy Pokelwaldt. “For students who have a college degree, or even some college experience, they may be eligible to take the classes at no cost.”

Leslie Agron of Oak Ridge, who completed the courses, said the program is challenging, but the students help each other.

“It’s very rigorous,” he said. “There is a camaraderie among the students.”

Hudson added, “The teachers will make you feel comfortable with what you are doing. It’s a lot of teamwork.”

Classes are available in the evenings, and courses are taught in collaboration with industry partners and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, giving students access to a network of organizations involved in advanced manufacturing.

Registration is underway for fall semester ACE courses, which begin Aug. 25.  Anyone interested in taking the courses is encouraged to contact the ACE program by emailing, calling (865) 354-3000 ext. 4865 or by visiting

The ACE project is jointly funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (90%) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (10%). Federal funding totals $1.6 million (75% of total cost).

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