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A Fabulous Co-op Experience

Coop IIoT lab


“I went into this knowing I wanted to enter engineering, which has solidified it even more. At first, I thought I knew nothing, but within the first couple of weeks, I learned how to solder and do coding and understand CAD.” -  Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board, Grade 11 Student, Madeline Perri.

Firsts are not only exhilarating, exciting, and nerve-wracking, they are also incredible opportunities to learn. That was exactly what happened with Mohawk College’s first high school co-op student in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) lab.

Mohawk College offers co-op opportunities to high school students in several disciplinary areas across campuses, but this was the first one for the IIOT lab.

 “We have never had a high school student before; this is a brand-new experience, and it was great,” said Dr. Esteve Hassan, IIOT Industrial Applied Research Chair. “It is thrilling, we are happy, and this is something we can look at doing [again in the future].”

The IIoT lab is part of IDEAWORKS, Mohawk College’s applied research arm that started in 2019. The lab works on various projects, specializing in how technology can interact with everything around us: Technology connects us to our cars, data connectivity, our homes – turning things on and off and everything in between. Industry partners come from steel, agriculture, farming, and aviation, and every day there is a new initiative, a new partner.

“The whole matrix is about the students we are working with and training and learning with students. It’s an exciting space and a great opportunity for students to learn,” said Hassan.

"We have all types of students, co-op, capstone, and final year students; we hire Campus Student Employment Program (CSEP) and students from McMaster University.

All the projects we work on are being completed with desirable outcomes because of our students; they are the key, the bright, fresh knowledge they are eager to learn and achieve."

"It was brought to our attention that a high school student was interested in coming into the lab. That was Mae, and we got her on board and gave her very challenging tasks, and she has been doing amazing. We do high school outreach, which has given us a new experience in this space.”

It is an opportunity that high school student Madeline Perri, known to those around her as Mae, was excited to jump at. “I came on a tour of Mohawk College, and I knew this would give me more options than anything else through the co-op [placement], and when I arrived, I was amazed at what was going on here.”

“I am actually dyslexic, so I have always clung to science and math. I was not good at other things, so I knew at a very young age I wanted to go into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). In high school, there are never any women in construction, which is wrong…I was always interested. This was a great opportunity.”

It has worked out exceptionally well, according to Esteve, “it was eye-opening for us to have a high school student, we need to bridge [the gap of] co-op from high schools to the colleges. We do tours with high school students, and as students come in they light up and ask great questions, so it could be beneficial to build a high school co-op program.

We have the space and capabilities to establish the bridge for them to learn, IoT is one, but there are so many other things to see and learn, and this could define their future better.

Going to high school is great, but they learn by doing – here in the lab, you learn and challenge yourself. It is more effective.

I really look forward to the potential of exploring this and doing more initiatives like this.”

Mae hopes to follow her passion for engineering as she continues her post-secondary education, and Mohawk College will be on her list.

To listen to the full conversation, click here.