Kraig Holler and Bill MacKeigan are thriving students in Lorain County Community College’s microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and microelectronics technology program. During their coursework, students like them get a chance to immerse in exciting real world projects with paid internships at local companies.
Holler, 24, has found success on his path to May graduation. He held two internships while going to LCCC full-time and residing in Lorain. After graduating last year with an associate of arts degree, he became interested in pursuing the MEMS program after hearing about it from an advisor.
“I took the intro class and found it fascinating,” Holler said. “The program isn’t something you can generally get at a [regular] community college. The MEMS program is very unique in and of itself.”
As a student, Holler has already engrossed himself in his field. He not only works as an independent contractor at SMART Microsystems as an Engineering Technician, but he also works as a manufacturing intern at NanoBio Systems, a company in the Desich Entrepreneurship Center business incubator that creates and tests biosensors. NanoBio Systems seeks to change healthcare standards by developing non-invasive devices that correlate saliva biomarker levels to disease diagnosis. Additionally, Holler performs lab work and analysis for the company. At SMART Microsystems he performs inspections, sets up test equipment and performs environmental testing.
Holler contributes some of his success to the quality of instructors in the LCCC MEMS program. “Johnny Vanderford is very active in helping students find positions with companies around the state,” he said.
Vanderford, LCCC professor of microelectronics and MEMS engineering, explained that “Local industry is interested in students with experience in LCCC’s new Training & Recruitment Accelerated Innovation Network of Ohio (TRAIN OH) program which includes earning an associate’s degree in MEMS, a rapidly growing field of microelectronic technology.” In TRAIN OH, students get hands-on experience in a paid internship, which begins by their third semester, with 24 hours or more of work a week in addition to classes.
LCCC student 58-year-old Bill MacKeigan also found achievement in MEMS through TRAIN OH. Like Holler, MacKeigan is scheduled to graduate with an associate degree in MEMS this spring after completing his coursework and work-based learning.
As a MEMS student and Lodi resident, he is completing his second internship at RBB in Wooster, a company that manufacturers printed circuit boards. He also works in surface mount technology with TRAIN OH. RBB supported the pilot launch of TRAIN OH, which is funded by NextFlex (a flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing institute in San Jose, California) and it is one of the eight founding members of the MEMS advisory committee. Working at a local company as part of the program gives him and other students a chance to make connections in the Cleveland-area MEMS workforce.
In MacKeigan’s capstone project students design and build a fully functional working circuit. “It has been challenging so far, but I’m working through it just like my fellow classmates,” he said. “With as frustrating as it can be, it’s still been a lot of fun.”
For MacKeigan, this is not his first career. He is also a military veteran of the U.S. Army and a retired Elyria postal service letter carrier.
When looking for a new trade, he learned about the degree program and knew it was an up and coming industry. “The instructor, Johnny Vanderford, was very enthusiastic about the program and got me hooked,” he said.
MacKeigan said “LCCC seemed to give me the most bang for my buck, as well as it was close to my home.” Through class he became certified by the Association Connecting Electronic Industries in how to solder, a credential that can be very appealing to future employers.
Another student, Lorain resident Sheradowa Washington, 44, was a full-time mom for more than 20 years when her life circumstances changed and she wanted to start a new career. She knew that her positive attitude would take her far with a MEMS degree from LCCC.
Like others, she was mesmerized by Vanderford’s informational session and knew the program was the right fit. Her previous work at NASA taught her “failure is not an option,” she said. She also was familiar with clean rooms from her time there and welcomed the experience again in the MEMS program.
Washington likes that the MEMS work is hands-on and involves trial and error. From her life experience she’s learned that a mix of hands-on and traditional learning is perfect for her.
LCCC students have the option of pursuing an associate degree, one-year technical certificate or short-term technical certificate. The MEMS degree allows students to pursue their new career working as an engineering technician, operator or lab technician or work toward a bachelor’s degree in engineering or science. Vanderford said he ensures the curriculum is infused with lessons that align with current local industry needs and all students are required to complete at least 300 hours of an internship to graduate.
MEMs students ultimately engage in work with electronic components, sensors, mechanical actuators and structures that are built on a micro and sub-micro scale. Students enrolled in coursework gain experience and training while working at the operator level in a class 10,000 cleanroom located at the college utilizing materials, equipment, protocols and processes related to the microelectronics industry. Classes are small with one-on-one trainer-to-student interactions and industry-related networking opportunities are presented throughout the associate degree. Additional classes in the degree include circuits, 2D computer aided drafting (CAD), SolidWorks 3D drafting and IPC soldering.
In addition to the training for equipment used in the microelectronics and MEMS industry, classes include problem solving skills related to MEMS theory of design, sensor and microcircuit operation, material and size constraints, microelectronic packaging, as well as printed circuit board assembly, design, manufacturing and project management.
The Richard Desich Business and Entrepreneurship Center is located at 151 Innovation Drive at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio.
To learn about LCCC’s Associate Degree in MEMS and Microelectronic Engineering, visit
For more information about the program, contact Professor Johnny Vanderford at (440) 366-4206 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.