Partnership Creates Connection Between Students and Industry

C.E.T Student Ryan Kopytko
C.E.T Student Ryan Kopytko

A partnership between Assiniboine Community College and the Manitoba Beef & Forage Initiatives (MBFI) has created collaborative opportunities for students from the Communications Engineering Technology (CET) program and the agriculture industry.

As part of the CET program, students must complete an applied research project by creating an idea or collaborating with a business. The goal is to improve upon an existing technology or develop a new one to solve a problem or issue.

The opportunity to collaborate presented itself naturally as MBFI’s General Manager, Mary-Jane Orr and Grant Nichol, an instructor of the CET program, spoke to discuss how students could use their newly acquired skills in a real-world application. MBFI was looking for solutions to connect technologies they test and use at their farm stations to a more comprehensive network with internet access.

Ryan Kopytko, a CET student, jumped on the opportunity to work with MBFI, and paired up with classmate, Mike Goertzen, to tackle the project.

In partnership with Manitoba Agriculture, MBFI invested $30,000 to acquire the necessary infrastructures to build a Wi-Fi-enabled network covering multiple farm stations and spanning more than 1,000 acres.

“I advised students of the kinds of technologies we were trying to use currently, but I also really needed it wide open to allow opportunities for the next new piece of technology that might be coming down the pipeline,” Orr said. “The students were instrumental in designing the system and then identifying key pieces of infrastructure needed to carry it out.”

This was the first time the CET program executed a project of this magnitude in collaboration with an industry partner.

“The students found it to be quite a good learning experience,” Nichol said. “They were a little overwhelmed at times, but it was a good transition for them to come out of college into the workforce.”

Kopytko said he was excited to work with MBFI because, coming from a cattle-farming background, he knew they were a reputable operation that conducted valuable research for farmers and producers.

“I was really interested in technology in agriculture, so this project really appealed to me,” Kopytko said. He added that his project focus was on wireless design and infrastructure. His partner, Mike Goertzen, tackled the power consideration.

“We decided it was going to be Wi-Fi, so we needed to figure out the Wi-Fi access points, which was a big consideration … because it’s all pasture,” said Kopytko. “There were some surprises along the way. We had to make some quick decisions on how we were going to do things.”

The team could not install the system permanently because of shipping delays and supply difficulties, Kopytko said, but he would like to see the project continue and build upon it going forward.

“It was a huge learning experience, between project planning and deciding what components and wireless equipment to use, and dealing with vendors, it was all new stuff to me,” said Kopytko.

Orr said she could see opportunities to collaborate with the CET program in future as a result of this initiative.

“It was a very positive experience. I was really impressed with the student’s dedication to seeing the project through,” Orr said. “The opportunity to do Capstone projects is really invaluable from an industry perspective, because it allows us to get to know the students and also become invested in their future as well.”