Instructor hopes to excite electronic students

David Broyles

February 23, 2014

DOBSON —New Surry Community College Electronics Instructor Dr. Clayton Workman wants to share a lifelong zest he has had for electronics with a revamped program changing to meet advanced manufacturing.

“I want to spread the enthusiasm (he felt as a child) for electronics,” said Workman. “I am hoping for a summer school opportunity here for younger kids if the school decides to go that way. I’d love for them to have a shot at some neat experiments where they realize this is something they can do, even as a kid. I’d like to instill this in them early on in the hopes they would want to continue in college.”

Workman is working to supply more modern testing equipment and robotic arms for the electronic engineering program which will be purchased through North Carolina Advanced Manufacturing Alliance.

This alliance is comprised of 10 community colleges that are providing specialized training to prepare people for employment in the advanced manufacturing sector.

Workman said he moved to North Carolina in 2004 and accepted a position as senior engineer with RF MicroDynamics of Greensboro. He later was promoted to engineering manager over 13 engineers for the firm, which manufactured microchips for cellphones for many companies in the field such as Samsung and Nokia.

“At one point, if you had a cell phone there was a 50 percent one of our chips was in it, which was cool,” said Workman. “I had the idea I would like to try teaching for a long time, which was helped by me seeing the satisfaction my wife, Emily, had teaching at Guilford Technical Community College. I admit I was thinking of teaching more after retirement.”

The opportunity fell into place after a firm, IQE, purchased MicroDynamics, which by this time was looking to add solar technology to its products.

“If I hadn’t had the desire to teach I would have probably stuck with it,” Workman said. “Another thing which motivated me was with the cellphone products we’d solved most of the problems. My job had become less engineering and more about logistics. Electronics was the thing I loved most as a kid.”

He accepted a part-time instructor post with GTCC but kept an eye out for a full-time college position and said he was excited to get an opportunity to teach at SCC. Workman has a Ph.D. in microelectronics-photonics from the University of Arkansas, which was an interdisciplinary program incorporating a mixture of academic disciplines.

“The program here is strong and complex,” said Workman. “I hope to take the program more into the direction to prepare students for what they will see in a modern industrial setting. Previously, electronics programs were in a repair shop mindset. That world does not exist now. Often it is cheaper to throw away a device than get it repaired. What we once did with a whole circuit board can be done with a microchip. You can’t fix a chip when it breaks. There’s a shift there and you have to stay modern. I think the former mindset in many ways was the glory days of electronics. That was a cool time when electronics was a new thing.”

He explained he is also hoping to attract more girls to the program and feels electronics is a field where there are jobs available for younger people interested and sees no reason the field should remain so male-dominated.

“There’s always a shortage of scientific and technical people and there are always jobs available wherever they go,” said Workman. “I hope to help them love it. For me this is something I love, something different and I am excited. I hope to add to the program here.”

David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.