Oregon Freeze Dry Donates $50k to Mechatronics Program

Linn-Benton Community College’s Mechatronics Industrial Maintenance Technician Program will receive a $50,000 boost from local food processor Oregon Freeze Dry through a recent donation by the company.

Jim Merryman, Oregon Freeze Dry Chief Operations Officer, recently announced the donation, which will be used- to purchase equipment for the college program.

“By LBCC teaming up with industry, they have taken the lead in helping their students become potential employees with jobs skills necessary to ‘hit the ground running’ in many industries in our area,” said Merryman. “Since LBCC has been a great partner in this effort and they have proven they can educate students to meet our needs, we are pleased to help in the donations necessary for the continual upgrade to the Mechatronics program.”

According to Merryman, students who have the willingness, capacity and behavioral aptitude to work in a manufacturing environment are desperately needed locally and throughout Oregon.

“Our employment requirements have been changing in recent years, requiring more technical expertise on our production lines and other equipment,” said Merryman. “Now, a combination of mechanical and electronic skills is required to successfully set up and run a production line. We want to help our community by providing skilled jobs and by participating in the education and continued development of individuals, including our employees.”

Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc., a world leader in freeze drying technology, is probably best known in the Pacific Northwest for its Mountain House brand of freeze dried backpacking foods.

With 32,000 square feet of freeze-drying surface, the company’s Albany plant has a multitude of processing equipment. LBCC’s two-year associate of applied science degree program is helping to meet the need for skilled technicians by providing training in troubleshooting, maintaining and repairing of equipment such as those used by Oregon Freeze Dry and other industries.

The company’s donation will help the LBCC program to purchase industry grade, integrated equipment designed for classroom training use.

“We need real world equipment for training,” says Dave Mack, LBCC Mechatronics instructor. “This is important to us because we want our students to see, touch, work on and troubleshoot on real world, industrial grade equipment.”

The equipment, along with supporting training materials, will pull together the technological principles covered in the Mechatronics program, including mechanical, electrical, pneumatics, hydraulics, drive systems, bearings, valves, process control, automation, programmable controllers (PLCs), sensors, actuators, robotics, supervisor and data aquisiton (SCADA), says Mack.

“The training equipment can be configured in a variety of ways, from simple to complex, giving rise to the principles of equipment construction, commissioning and troubleshooting, and provides a link between first- and second-year program curriculum,” said Mack. “Such equipment comes with technical documentation, which serves as an additional teaching tool for our students as they learn to read and interpret the documentation in order to use the equipment.”

Oregon Freeze Dry joins a number of other industry partners who have donated to the college Mechatronics program including Viper Northwest, Pacific Power, Concept Systems, ENTEK Manufacturing, Siemans, Damien Schmidt, Suzion Wind Energy Corporation, Target Distribution Center, the Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation and several private donations.


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