Like many middle school students, Dakota Makela didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do when she grew up. What she did know was that she wanted to “create cool gadgets and help people fix issues.”
Makela enrolled in the Blue Water Middle College and St. Clair County Community College (SC4) as a high school freshman in 2014, choosing an engineering technology/mechatronics track that would allow her to innovate and solve challenges.
“SC4 gave me a good idea of what to expect in the field,” said Makela, who was homeschooled until enrolling in BWMC. “The classes were set up to be very hands-on and allowed me to get experience in electronics, robotics, coding, wiring, troubleshooting, drafting and welding by teaching me the basics and then allowing me to test out my ideas in the lab.”
She added, “SC4 helped prepare me a lot starting out. My teachers were incredibly helpful and introduced me to the culture of engineering through their own experiences working in production environments.”
Makela graduated from SC4 in 2018 with an associate degree in mechatronics before transferring to Michigan Technological University to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with a concentration on photonics.
She currently works as an operator controls electrical engineer at Caterpillar and is pleased with where her career path has thus far led her.
“I enjoy being able to continuously learn new things in my workplace,” Makela said. “Working at Caterpillar, there’s a lot of different components working together to get a functional machine and a lot of different people focused on each one. Being at a large company enables me to reach out to people who are masters at what they do and learn more about how things work by talking to them.”
And she credits SC4 for helping her get there.
“Overall, I don’t think I’d be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for SC4,” she said.
SC4 offers a wide array of courses, programs and transfer pathways for students interested in pursuing careers in engineering, engineering technology, electronics, engineering graphics/CAD, mechatronics, precision machining, and welding and fabrication. For a current schedule of offerings—including fast-path classes beginning Oct. 16—visit sc4.edu/schedule and apply at sc4.edu/apply.