Cole Erhardt will attend Oregon Tech this fall. He spent the summer interning at OMIC R&D.

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Cole Erhardt demonstrates the use of a robot from the Scappoose High School Byte Sized robotics team during the Scappoose centennial in August 2021.A recent Scappoose High School graduate is one of the latest recipients of a full-tuition scholarship to study manufacturing or mechanical engineering at Oregon Tech.

Cole Erhardt, a 2022 graduate, is one of five students to receive the four-year scholarship starting this year.

The DeArmond Manufacturing Fellows Scholarship also includes an internship at the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center Research & Design, which Erhardt started this summer and will continue each summer through his undergraduate degree.

Erhardt said OMIC's annual Manufacturing Day, which he attended each year of high school, "drove me towards engineering."

"I was able to go to the Manufacturing Days and come in and see some absolutely incredible machinery, incredible machinery and processes and talk to people they have there. That was around sophomore year when it clicked and said 'I want to do this. I want to go here,'" Erhardt said.

Erhardt will start classes at Oregon Tech's Klamath Falls campus this month. Interning at OMIC R&D before freshman year is optional in the DeArmond program, but Erhardt took that opportunity.

OMIC's focus is on innovating new manufacturing processes.

Over the summer, Erhardt assisted OMIC's team in machine operations and took classes.

Urmaze Naterwalla, OMIC R&D's head of research & development, is "absolutely brilliant in all things machining," Erhardt said.

"He would host classes for all the DeArmond fellows, and we were able to go up there and he would show us the math behind a lot of things," Erhardt added. "I was able to take lectures with the people there in the facility and listen to them talk about things like material science. … It was a lot of learning, and it's also assisting in the research that happens there at OMIC."

Some of the work over the summer was also more "gofer" work, assisting the experienced researchers with smaller tasks, Erhardt said.

"You're greasing the wheels of a moving system," Erhardt explained.

COURTESY PHOTO - Cole Erhardt graduated from Scappoose High School in 2022.Erhardt enjoys the program because it constantly pushes him, and it never gets monotonous.

"The phrase I use when people ask is: I do cool stuff every single day. There's always something new, always something really, really fun. Even if it is work, it's always really cool, because we get to operate at the cutting edge of cutting tools," Erhardt said.

Trent LaMont, another Scappoose alumnus, also received the DeArmond scholarship and overlapped with Erhardt at OMIC this summer — Erhardt in his first year interning at OMIC and LaMont in his final.

Seeing LaMont receive the scholarship also inspired Erhardt's interest in the career path and Oregon Tech.

"I like the math, I like the science, I like the design, so I want to pursue this career path," Erhardt said.

The four other scholarship recipients this year are Zander Ortega, from Sandy High School and Dylan Davis, from Glide High School, who both interned at OMIC this summer; Abby Gibson, from Henley High School; and Zack Kane from Ashland High School.

Throughout high school, Erhardt was a member of the Byte Sized robotics club.

"I just have to absolutely thank Tim and Mary Ohling for holding that entire program down," Erhardt said.

Josh Koch, OMIC R&D's business development manager, also assisted the robotics club.

"It's really cool to have them as part of the community," Erhardt said.

It was around his sophomore year when Erhardt realized he wanted to pursue a career in robotics.

"I've been building up probably my entire high school career to be here," Erhardt said.

Erhardt said he's already begun to develop relationships with some of the businesses that are OMIC members.

Post-graduation, "it'd be really cool to come back and work at OMIC as an employee … if not, I look forward to trying my hand at some of the industry partners that I've met," Erhardt said.

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