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Flood Turns Into Learning Experience

Sheldon, IA— The rain clouds that brought the devastating flood waters to Iowa last June contained a silver lining for students in Heavy Equipment Operations and Maintenance classes at Northwest Iowa Community College. Three pre-production John Deere excavators and a Hitachi excavator that sustained severe flood damage at a Cedar Falls business were donated to the college for students to ...

February 23, 2009

Sheldon, IA— The rain clouds that brought the devastating flood waters to Iowa last June contained a silver lining for students in Heavy Equipment Operations and Maintenance classes at Northwest Iowa Community College. Three pre-production John Deere excavators and a Hitachi excavator that sustained severe flood damage at a Cedar Falls business were donated to the college for students to clean up and work on, in order to gain valuable hands-on experience.

The excavators had been tested and photographed and were in a shop for final updates when flooding put the machines in 6-foot-deep water, said Mark Tilson, John Deere product engineer.

"The amount of water and muck and damage, especially to complex electronics, was just too much for Deere to really gain anything out of rehabbing them ourselves for resale," said Tilson. "Scrapping them seemed a shame, too. But letting students get a real-world lesson on how to rebuild them was a great way to make something good come out of the flooding."

There is more than just repair work involved in getting the excavators running again and eventually contributing on a job site. Students are managing the project from the ground up, said Denny Wallace, an instructor in truck and diesel technology at the school.

"They had to take things apart, identify what was working, what wasn't, what needed fixing, and what needed replacing," he said. "They put together a detailed plan of repair, a timeline and a full estimate of the cost of repairs. As it is, we'll probably invest $10,000 per unit in the materials needed to do the repairs."

"Our students come out of this 18-month course with a working knowledge of both the equipment and the kinds of job sites they're likely to work on," said Wallace. "And now they will have seen just about the worst you can do to a piece of machinery. Other repair jobs in their career might not seem so daunting."

The donated excavators are a Deere 75D crawler excavator, Deere 190DW and 220DW wheeled excavators, and a Hitachi ZX190W-3 wheeled excavator.

"When we made the donation, we pulled together a big package of all the technical documents the students would need in the maintenance shop to help them with the process of bringing these machines back to life," said Tilson. "It was gratifying to see something good come out of those tragic floods."

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