Barry McNamara  |  Published December 01, 2022

Engineering Field Trip

Monmouth students discover new career options during visit to Komatsu’s Peoria manufacturing plant.

AT KOMATSU: Pictured with one of the company's historical vehicles from more than 60 years ag... AT KOMATSU: Pictured with one of the company's historical vehicles from more than 60 years ago are engineering professor John Iselin, students Brady Hild, Oscar Alcobendas, Sencere Brent, Shane Anderson, Reed Wilson, Caden Stasko and Tori Cook, associate director of employer relations Kristi Krisher and Komatsu's Mike Bernach.MONMOUTH, Ill. – A group of Monmouth College engineering students was recently treated to an eye-opening view of how their discipline operates in the real world. That happened when the group visited the Komatsu manufacturing plant in Peoria, Illinois, accompanied by professor John Iselin and Kristy Krisher, the College’s associate director of employer relations.

“The trip came about because there may be intellectual property claims with the capstone project by engineering students in our ‘Senior Design’ course,” said Iselin. “I called a former colleague, Mike Bergnach, since that’s the type of work he specializes in, and he invited us to come down.”

Seven students made the trip, including Caden Sasko ’23 of Streator, Illinois, and Oscar Alcobendas ’24 of Espartinas, Spain.

“Around here, you hear about Caterpillar all over the place,” said Stasko. “So I was surprised to learn how large Komatsu is in comparison to Cat and what a global company it is. It was also interesting to see the actual span of how far the engineering field goes. We met some people who worked in IP – intellectual properties. I didn’t realize that engineers could go into something like that.”

“Before going on this trip, I knew there were quite a few types of engineering, but I’d never thought of a patent engineer. … But the one thing that stood out the most for me was how big the business world is.” Oscar Alcobendas 

Alcobendas, who is majoring in physics in addition to engineering, said the trip showed him new career possibilities.

“Before going on this trip, I knew there were quite a few types of engineering, but I’d never thought of a patent engineer,” said Alcobendas. “I also learned multiple things at Komatsu. For instance, they only make eight (mining) trucks a year, but the one thing that stood out the most for me was how big the business world is. Even though I come all the way from Spain and know how big the world is, I sometimes forget about it because I’ve gotten used to the small town of Monmouth.”

Iselin said it’s exactly that type of exposure that makes field trips so valuable for Monmouth students.

“These trips are important because we can’t completely replicate on campus what goes on in the business world,” he said. “Many students have never had the opportunity to see where things are designed and built. This is the world where engineering students will likely work. They need to be exposed to these things while they’re still students. I wish we had the capacity to do more of these types of trips.”


Why engineering?

Sasko explained how he became interested in engineering and how he has benefitted from Monmouth’s major in the discipline.

“My dad was a diesel tech and now he’s an auto mechanic, so I’ve been around it my whole life,” he said. “I have a mechanical inclination, so that kind of pushed me into it. But I was also interested in English and science and math, and I was thinking, ‘What do I want to do?’ I remember about halfway through high school, I’d hear my dad complain about engineers and why they’d designed things a certain way, and that’s what made me think about engineering even more and pursue it.”

“These trips are important because we can’t completely replicate on campus what goes on in the business world. Many students have never had the opportunity to see where things are designed and built. This is the world where engineering students will likely work.” John Iselin


As fate would have it, Monmouth added engineering as a major in the fall of Sasko’s freshman year.

“I wanted to get away from what the other kids in my school were doing, picking the University of Illinois or Bradley,” he said. “I was looking for a small school. When Professor (Chris) Fasano said the College would be starting up an engineering program – not just being part of a 3:2 with another school – that solidified my decision. I thought it was kind of cool that I was going to make my own program.”


Advantages of engineering at Monmouth

Monmouth engineering majors can choose a mechanical or electrical path within the major, and Sasko has chosen both. He’s also added internships with the Illinois Department of Transportation and Streator’s Vactor Manufacturing, which makes sewer trucks.

“It’s somewhat surprising to me, but I think Monmouth prepared me for an engineering career even better than what a tech school would have,” he said. “I was going to learn the technical aspects of engineering at both places, but my time at Monmouth has given me the ability to interact with people from other disciplines.”

Iselin said the trip not only showed students a real-world example of engineering at work, but also gave them a clearer idea of the many career options open to them in the field.

“I think Monmouth prepared me for an engineering career even better than what a tech school would have. I was going to learn the technical aspects of engineering at both places, but my time at Monmouth has given me the ability to interact with people from other disciplines.” Caden Stasko


“The idea that an engineering degree can be the entry into working with intellectual property was something our students had never considered,” he said. “I think they started to understand that this degree is great preparation for a whole host of professions, many of which they didn’t know existed.”

Sasko’s career plans include becoming a leader in the profession.

“After graduation, I hope to get my foot in somewhere and start a career. I want to keep growing professionally and help that company grow. Then five or 10 years down the road, I’d hope to get into more of the management or leadership side of whatever engineering field I’m in.”

Alcobendas said he’s learned the power of an engineering degree.

“Engineering is important because it provides a lot of solutions to different problems in different fields,” said Alcobendas. “Studying in this field will make my brain develop in a way to think logically and solve problems. In other words, engineers can change the world.”

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