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ECC instructor trades books for boots

Catherine Moushon

Catherine Moushon, ECC mathematics professor

Trading her flats for a pair of steel-toed boots, Catherine Moushon spent her fall 2013 semester externing at Caterpillar Inc. in Peoria. It wasn't a new career path for the Elgin Community College mathematics professor but rather a mission to learn how the manufacturing giant could help her enhance her lessons in the classroom.

"I expected my research to include technology, statistics, and the work of engineers in the company," she said. "Ultimately, I was exposed to many more components."

Moushon's sabbatical was spent learning about and observing the assembly process, leading tours of high school students studying in the trades, and being educated in the statistics of torque and small tolerance for error.

"One of my favorite projects was working with the CAT doctor and safety engineers to calculate risk for worker injury doing particular physical tasks," she said. "We studied ergonomics, observed, interviewed, measured, and used calculus to figure out a risk analysis."

Moushon, who has taught at ECC for 25 years, said the experience demonstrated the importance of teaching her students to investigate and work together to solve problems. She also discovered that while there are vast employment opportunities in manufacturing, the skills needed to perform those jobs have evolved.

"The younger generation has less experience with tools and mechanics," she said. "Machines have become more complex and technology driven. Community colleges can provide training to fill that skills gap and keep pace with technology."

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