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A Student’s Take: Marine Technology at CFCC

My name is Michelle Wiegert and I’m a marine technology student at Cape Fear Community College. My journey at CFCC began as a means to fulfill graduate school prerequisite requirements. I decided it would be less expensive and offer more flexibility if I took math and physics — the classes I would need to begin my graduate studies in marine science — at the community college.

I was so pleased with my first class at CFCC — an advanced trigonometry class — that I decided to see what else the college had to offer. I discovered the associate of applied science in marine technology program and quickly learned it would afford me the tangible skills I was lacking from my bachelor’s degree.

After weighing the pros and cons (most of which dealt with financial burden and career opportunities that would offset those costs) I set up a meeting with the department chair of the marine technology program. I registered for the program that same day. Needless to say, it was an easy sell.

While at CFCC, I have learned new skills that include, but are in no way limited to marlin spike seamanship (splicing, knot tying, and net mending); how to change the spark plugs and the oil in an outboard engine; how to drive, dock, and trailer a boat; a working knowledge of important computer software programs like GIS and AutoCAD and other programs unique to marine careers such as Hypack; how to identify roughly 400 southeastern U.S. marine species; and how to use a variety of instrumentation deployed off a ship and into the ocean.

There is one skill I have learned that ties each of these together: how to live on a ship. Moreover, I know how to live on a ship for numerous days at a time while employing the aforementioned skills. In the marine technology program, we are fortunate to have a moving classroom, the R/V Cape Hatteras.

Every semester, the students take the ship into the open ocean, deploying their classroom-learned tactics and techniques, while living on a moving vessel. Let me tell you, the ocean is kinder and gentler on some days than on others, and during these times, a person learns how to live with other people in close quarters.

The support system at CFCC has inspired me to take part in other marine-technology related opportunities. I became a board member of the Marine Technology Club, which allowed me to lead events of particular importance to me like once-a-month beach clean-ups with other CFCC students and their friends.

These clean-ups are our way of giving back to the community. We have found ways to not only clean the beaches but to enter data of trash we find into worldwide databases with programs such as Rosalia Project and Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell.

We are also involved with the worldwide drifter program registered with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. The marine technology program has partnered with the boat building and manufacturing program to build miniature sailboats that we then deploy on our cruises. Monitoring the movement of the sailboats has enabled us to determine the status of currents and winds.

Not only has the program met my academic needs and provided me the tangible skills I need at an affordable price, but it has allowed me to pursue my passions with the utmost support and care from both faculty and classmates.

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