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June 11, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Roane State offers two composite materials pathways

Roane State 2-tekno(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was submitted by Owen Driskill, Director of Marketing and Public Relations Roane State Community College. It is the first in a two-part series.) 

A technician skilled in programming and running a filament-winding machine can earn about $35,000 a year.

Learning to operate a filament-winder takes time. The machine is like a loom for carbon fiber composites. It can wrap anything in the lightweight, high-strength material. With a mold, a filament-winder can create parts for any number of industries.

To properly operate a filament-winder, a technician must understand how to design the weaves and how to precisely configure the machine. Now, students can learn these skills at Roane State Community College. The college is kicking off its composite materials courses this summer, and operating a filament-winder is just one of the skills students can learn.

“It’s a piece of equipment that provides specialized training in composites that you can’t get anywhere else, and it’s the kind of training that makes people employable,” said Andy Pokelwaldt, director of Roane State’s Advanced Composites Employment (ACE) program.

Roane State provides two pathways for college credit in composite materials.

The ACE program is a good fit for those who already have some education and experience. ACE offers three courses that can be taken individually or included as part of another Roane State degree program. Students who are close to finishing an associate degree may qualify to take the three classes at no cost because ACE is grant-funded.

Anyone who already has an associate degree or bachelor’s degree can take ACE classes free of charge and upgrade their skills.

Roane State also offers a one-year certificate program in composite materials through its participation in the National STEM Consortium. The certificate program is a good fit for new Roane State students who want to earn a credential and gain the skills needed for entry-level jobs in composites manufacturing.

“We know this is where manufacturing is going,” said Bob Gatton, director of Roane State’s National STEM Consortium program. “The potential for composites in East Tennessee is tremendous, and our courses can help train people for good jobs in this field.”

Roane State also offers noncredit composite materials training through its Advanced Materials Training and Education Center (AMTEC).

Regardless of which path a student chooses — ACE courses, a one-year composite materials certificate or training through AMTEC — the skills students learn will be position them for good jobs in manufacturing.

Peter Shpik, manager of technical services at carbon fiber manufacturer Toho Tenax America and a Roane State instructor, called composite materials “the wave of the future.”

“The sky is the limit with composites,” Shpik said. “It depends on what your ambitions are.”

To learn more about which composite materials program is right for you, call (865) 354-3000, ext. 4764 or email

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