The skills palette is now brighter for local students thanks to a one-of-a-kind set of tools found nowhere else in the state.
The Portland Community College Auto Collision Repair Technology Program at the Rock Creek Campus (17705 NW Springville Road) received two new automotive paint booths and a virtual painting system this spring that is enhancing student learning. The PCC Bond Program and the campus’ equipment budget funded the upgrade with $225,000.
Students are using the new high-tech equipment to improve their employment picture. The systems are available in the private sector, but the Rock Creek Campus academic program is the only one in Oregon using it in a learning environment.
“Everyone connected with the program is excited about this upgrade,” said Paul Ireland of National Coatings & Supply and a member of the program’s industry advisory committee. “The students are using equipment that is nicer than what you find in most paint shops in Portland. It will give Rock Creek students a great advantage.”
The two new paint booths are designed to use waterborne paints and the built-in air blowers help speed up the evaporation process to shorten drying time. Although waterborne and traditional solvent paints are still being used locally, the solvent-based paint contains higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) that are bad for the environment. Several U.S. states, as well as Europe and Canada, have already enacted regulations that require the use of waterborne paint to be used in all collision repair facilities. Eventually, all local collision repair shops will be forced to switch to waterborne paints to reduce their VOC emissions.
The PCC Auto Collision Repair Technology Program is now part of this movement.
“Our industry is experiencing a gap between the guys who are highly skilled and retiring, and the next generation of employees,” Ireland said. “This program at Rock Creek is providing the best of the best in terms of the equipment, paint products and instruction. These (new) students will be welcomed in the industry.”
Program faculty and students are excited about the virtual painting system, which allows students to hone their painting skills without using paint. The simulation system, which is much like a video game consol where the student wears a headset and holds a device that mimics painting cars on giant projection screen, gives each student more spray time and practice to improve muscle memory and technique. The virtual paint system immediately reports how well the student managed distance, angles, overlapping and paint thickness without wasting paint.
“(Students) know what this means in terms of their employment options,” said Geoff Snook, Auto Collision Repair instructor. “These are students who easily could find themselves painting cars, airplanes, heavy equipment and more. They will be able to talk with potential employers about their Rock Creek training and we have to believe it will give them an edge.”
At PCC’s Auto Collision Repair Technology program, certified by the National Automotive Training Education Foundation (NATEF), gives students the skills to become a skilled auto body repair technician or painter. The program offers an associate’s applied science degree, and two- and one-year certificates. Since its establishment in 1970, our program has grown into one of the largest and most reputable programs on the West Coast.