Michael Thomson, a recent graduate of WelTec’s Bachelor of Engineering Technology, explains how the hands-on problemsolving-based degree ensured he was work-ready.
“I went to uni for two years, but I’m more of a hands-on person than a pen-and-paper person.” Michael Thomson
Michael loves working on engineering projects. He has built his own drone that goes from zero to 140kph in under a second. “I reckon I could get 160kph out of it. I just need to tinker with it,” says the WelTec engineering student, who built the drone from scratch. A few years ago, he made headlines locally and globally appearing on Three News and the front page of The Wall Street Journal for using his drone to muster sheep. “It’s a pretty quick way of mustering,” says Michael. “I like trying new things and have always loved doing little projects like that. I built my own 3D printer, for instance. I like machines and making machines do a task.” Michael is studying engineering at WelTec — last year, he completed the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering and is now doing the Bachelor of Engineering Technology — and also works at the Whittaker’s chocolate factory in Porirua. “Lots of things I learnt went straight into what I do at work, especially programmablelogic-controller (PLC) programming and working on control systems.” In the degree, which he’ll complete in two years rather than three, he’s majoring in electrical engineering, learning about areas such as automation, systems, controls, and programming. “I’m doing the degree because it opens up even more opportunities,” he says. Michael started working at Whittaker’s at the beginning of the year, one day a week, and he works there full-time in the holidays. “I do a bit of everything there. I’ve got lots of little projects going that keep each day interesting, plus it smells great,” he says. “It’s quite good to get the industry experience while you’re studying. Whittaker’s has told me to put study first and I take time off for exams. I couldn’t ask for a better employer.” His supervisor Herbert Aregger says Michael has a real understanding of how things work. “We’re very lucky to have him. His technical knowledge is quite amazing for a 25-year-old. He works on little projects here, does general maintenance, a bit of fabricating, bit of welding, does electrical work, and he’s pretty clued up with programming, too,” says Herbert. “Whatever he learns at WelTec, he can put into practice here. One recent project was installing a new ink printer onto one of the machines to print best-before dates on the chocolate. He did the mechanical side of things and programmed the machine.”