Campus Connection: MSC South East Automotive Collision Technology Instructor Hands Shop Keys to Former Student | Local

Katryn Conlin for the Winona Daily News

After 36 years of teaching Auto Body Collision technology at Minnesota State College Southeast in Winona, Tom Brandt hands over the keys to the college’s auto body shop at the end of the spring semester.

Brandon Boynton, a graduate of Tom’s program in 2014, is the new bodywork instructor. For the past year, he has been teaching with Tom, learning the tools of the trade from his former teacher.

“I knew the best way to have a smooth transition when I retired would be for the college to commit for a year to onboard a new instructor,” Tom said. “Having the hiring committee select an alumnus of the program was very special to me.”

Brandon said that in 2013 he was in the very first class rolling their toolboxes from the main building to the brand new transportation hub. Even as a student that year, Brandon had in mind to return to teaching one day.

“I’ve always wanted to do a little more than be a technician or own my own shop. Tom and my high school teachers inspired me to want to teach as a profession,” Brandon said. “I want to make a difference in people’s lives.

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Tom and Brandon respect that each student has a unique background, psychology and learning style.

Tom said: “When you have students that you see regularly all day, they are often looking for advice on things that aren’t just bodywork. Sometimes you are a bit of a psychologist.

“You are more than just a teacher here,” Brandon agreed. “Sometimes you’re a life coach and other times you’re just the guy who swings a hammer to show them how.”

Over the years, Tom and Brandon have seen tremendous changes in the collision collision technology industry.

“For example, we now teach aluminum repair and aluminum welding. We didn’t do that when Brandon was a student,” Tom said.

In the workshop, Tom pointed out a heavily damaged Porsche sports car and Porsche racing car. He explained that both cars are a combination of steel body panels and aluminum structures.

“The street variants of these cars are like race cars. That’s part of the reason for some of our race car projects, because otherwise we couldn’t get cars over $100,000 to work!

Another critical shift in the industry is the advent of advanced driver assistance systems like adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning signals. Tom explained that there can be up to 100 computers in a car to run these systems.

“There are cameras, radars and things like that that need to be recalibrated after any repairs,” he said. “If something can be physically affected in a collision, that may be an issue that needs to be addressed during collision repairs.”

Brandon noted the development of the collision repair industry specific to electric vehicles. “All-electric is going to be a mainstay. Tesla now has a collision center in the Twin Cities, and one of our graduates this year has already taken a job there.

Not only have the cars changed, but today’s students are very different from those Tom started teaching in 1986.

“These learners grew up with technology at their fingertips. If I tell them we have to go through the computer to do something, they’ll do it on their phone before we even get to the computer! he said.

As the college year draws to a close, Brandon Boynton looks back on a year spent working side-by-side with his former professor.

“Tom has always been an inspiration to me. He has worked his entire career to build a premier auto body program in the Southeast,” Brandon said. “I have met countless former students and each of them has nothing but praise for Tom during his time in the program.The quality of teaching is second to none and this is something I plan to continue and develop in the future.

Tom Brandt said he will miss working with students who really want to succeed. “The rest of the world shuts down while you’re in the lab working with these students. And that’s a really good feeling. I know I’m going to miss it.

For more information about Auto Body Collision Technology at MSC Southeast, contact Admissions Representative Chris Cook at 507-453-2410 or [email protected].

Each week, Campus Connection shares updates on programs, activities, faculty and alumni, and campus life from Winona’s three colleges.

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