TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology program adapts to teaching during pandemic

(WACO, Texas) – Erik Trujillo worked with two other students on a recent morning assembling an engine in Texas State Technical College’s Diesel Engine Testing and Repair II class.

Trujillo, of Elgin, is in his second semester working on a certificate in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at the Waco campus. He is optimistic about the future as he dons a campus-required mask during the class lab.

“I enjoy learning and being here, but I also want to get started working,” he said.

Trujillo, like all of TSTC’s students, has adjusted to learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since spring 2020, TSTC’s programs have been taught either exclusively online or in a hybrid format that combines online lectures with on-campus labs. 

For Trujillo, he said he has adapted well.

“I enjoy getting the experience of learning every day,” he said.

TSTC students, faculty and staff continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in wearing masks, not gathering in groups, and sanitizing hands and work areas. All of this is being done to fight the spread of COVID-19.

The Diesel Equipment Technology program is emphasizing the disinfectant spraying of tables before and after classes and requiring everyone to wear Level 1 masks. Faculty members also use timers to ensure that students who work in groups only spend 15 minutes at a time together, then take a break to wash and sanitize their hands before returning to work.

David Folz, the program’s lead instructor, said there is a lot of material to cover in labs while students are on campus. He said even one missed day can put students behind and make it tougher to catch up.

Brad Brownlee, of San Antonio, is in his fourth semester in TSTC’s Diesel Equipment Technology program in Waco. He works at a tractor-trailer-washing business, where he gets to look up close at engines. He said he likes in-person lectures better because questions can be asked quicker and there is more interaction. He said instructors try to include as much information as possible during in-person labs.

“The labs here are pretty amazing,” he said. “The instructors are amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.”

The Diesel Equipment Technology program has more than 180 students this semester, Folz said. He said with smaller classes, more sections are created to accommodate everyone. The program accepts students each fall, spring and summer.

“That’s a good thing in a way,” he said. “We are limiting students to 15 per class.”

Folz said the pandemic has not diminished employers’ interest in the program’s students.

“There is still a lot of work out there,” he said. “People are wanting to get in to do interviews with our students.”

Due to campus visitor restrictions, emails are sent to program instructors to let students know where jobs are available.

Jacob Welker, of Gatesville, was recently offered a part-time paid internship at United Ag & Turf in Temple. He said the internship will work well for him because of his class schedule.

Welker is scheduled to graduate this semester from TSTC’s Diesel Equipment Technology program and is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology – Off-Highway Specialization. He is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Welker said he was glad to take classes focusing on brake systems and how tractor-trailers function.  

“I am glad I got the extra classes I needed,” he said.

The demand for diesel service technicians and mechanics is projected to rise to more than 290,000 nationally by 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Texas, workers made an annual mean wage of more than $49,000 in 2019, according to the agency.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.