May 26, 2021

Century College alum Patrick Miller can see the coming changes in the fast-paced computer industry, and he wants to have a role in it.  ”I’m an enthusiast for computer hardware engineering systems, and I want to design hardware.  I want to be the bridge between computer science and engineering,”  Patrick says.

Following his graduation from Macalester (St. Paul, Minnesota) in 2005, he worked as a computer programmer for a health care software company for over 10 years, until he was ready for a change.  Patrick planned to retool his skills to take his career in another direction. 

His long-term goal was to get into the Engineering program at the University of Minnesota, and he discovered that Century had a transfer pathway.  Century College was affordable, convenient, and close to home. 

Learning Opportunities at Century College

Patrick soon enrolled and enjoyed many of Century’s computer science and engineering classes.  Engineering instructor David Mekala noticed Patrick’s aptitude for math, and asked him to be a Tutor Linked to Classes for his math and algebra courses.  Patrick had a lot of understanding for students who struggle with math. “I know that feeling of being stuck,” Patrick observes, “And the nice thing is helping people–giving them a chance to dig themselves out, and helping them realize that they can do it!”  In recognition of his hard work, Patrick was named an Outstanding Student in Math in 2020.

Although attending college during the pandemic was a challenge, Patrick adjusted. “The professors did well, given the quick transition to online during the beginning of the pandemic.  Taking online classes was okay, but not as enjoyable as being in class, with the back and forth between instructors and students,” Patrick says.

A more exciting challenge for Patrick was joining the “Hover Ducks” quadcopter team (part of the Engineering Club), and getting involved in the 2020-21 Minnesota Space Grant Consortium  (MnSGC) Quadcopter Exploration-Flying Challenge.  The goal was to design, test, mount sensor systems, actuators, and electronics on a small drone, which could fly through and explore an unknown “alien” environment.  The team’s misson involved taking a video, utilizing a LIDAR sensor to map the area, detect magnetic materials, collect temperature, humidity, and various chemical readings, and collect granular and liquid samples.

The team had a short amount of time to build their quadcopter, and met weekly via Zoom.  Patrick was the communication coordinator between the Century team and the quadcopter competition organizers. During this process, Patrick also took on the role of project coordinator, a role that he particularly enjoyed.  He also loved the brainstorming – all done remotely.  The team slowly coalesced and worked extremely well together.

“They all did a wonderful job learning subsets of the drone –two team members took up soldering, one did the video editing, and another one trained himself to be the drone’s pilot,” Patrick notes, “We learned new skills and specialties, and each became an indispensable team member.”  Near the end of the project, they met in person, learning how to put together sensors and other parts, and flying their quadcopter in the gym or the cafeteria. 

Their hard work paid off.  The team placed 2nd overall in the competition, and 1st by popular vote for their promotional video.

Future Plans

This fall, Patrick will begin his coursework at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.  He plans to get an integrated  Engineering degree, which means taking Master’s level classes, and getting half the coursework done for his next degree while in his Senior year. 

With Patrick’s hard work at Century College, and careful career planning, he’s looking forward to taking his vision, creativity, and leadership skills to the next level. “I have always enjoyed being a resource for people and having a vision overall–like with the plan for the quadcopter–and I can see how everything fits together,” Patrick says. “It’s where your plan meets reality, and there’s where you find the fun.”

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