Photo courtesy of YSI Inc.
by Julianne Sandberg '08
November 11, 2008
Few people endeavor to combine a love for science with the skills of writing. But one Cedarville student is achieving this dream on his road to success.
Kaleb Eldridge, who hails from Bidwell, Ohio, came to Cedarville as a physics major but soon declared a major in technical and professional communication (TPC). “Even after I changed majors,” Kaleb explains, “I knew I wanted to combine writing and editing with a science-related field.”
Cedarville’s TPC program turned out to be the perfect opportunity to do just that. As part of the language and literature department, it offers an interdisciplinary approach to technical communication. Students take courses in graphic design, creative writing, editing and marketing, which prepare them for work in a wide variety of businesses and organizations.
TPC students are also required to fulfill a 300-hour internship. When Sandi Harner, professor of English and director of the TPC program, heard about a unique science-related internship, she encouraged Kaleb to apply. “I knew he could do the job,” Harner says. “It had Kaleb’s name all over it.”
Within a few days, he was working for Yellow Springs Instruments (YSI) Inc., a company headquartered in Yellow Springs, Ohio, that develops instruments and software for testing bodies of water. They assigned Kaleb a very specific task: to write and design a user manual for their newest underwater instrument.
A Yellow Submarine
Kaleb worked with the EcoMapper — a cutting-edge robotic submarine, measuring six feet in length and painted bright yellow. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, the EcoMapper collects data on water quality and creates extremely high-resolution maps of bodies of water that government and environmental agencies use for research.
Kaleb’s assignment meant he had to become an expert on the EcoMapper and then transfer that knowledge to a user manual. The project was overwhelming, to say the least, especially given the 10-week deadline to complete the manual in time to ship an EcoMapper to the first customer. But he was up for the challenge. Self-motivation and a drive to achieve pushed him toward success as he began what promised to be a full summer.
A Long and Winding Road
At 6 a.m. on his second day, Kaleb boarded a plane to Illinois, where he got his first look at one of only a handful of EcoMappers in the world, and began studying the high-tech product. He soon took another trip — this time to Nevada — to talk with expert engineers, oceanographers, and biologists about what the instrument does.
After compiling the research, Kaleb was ready to begin writing the manual. Making complicated information accessible was one of the hardest aspects of the project. “I needed to think like the typical user and break up the information into logical pieces,” he says. He then submitted the manual for critique. Many scientists and engineers reviewed the text and illustrations to make sure the content was correct and understandable.
Kaleb began the project with little information and no documentation to work from, but he ended with a high-quality, 100-page book that would accompany every EcoMapper that YSI distributes.
A Ticket to Ride
Having successfully finished the project, Kaleb is confident that he will be ready for the professional world of technical communication when he graduates in May 2009. “I don’t think I could be better prepared as a technical writer,” he says. “I learned every aspect of creating a complete and well-documented manual.”
Kaleb’s experience at Cedarville gave him the tools he needed to succeed at YSI. “TPC provides students with the most current and relevant information in the profession,” he explains. “It combines education with experience as we immediately implement everything we learn in the classroom. We also have many opportunities to work with actual clients.”
He also gained the confidence to interact with people from all disciplines and walks of life. “Interacting with professionals at Cedarville gave me an advantage in my internship as I worked with many different people to complete the project,” Kaleb says. “Cedarville emphasizes getting to know people, asking them questions, and being willing to openly and honestly ask them for help if I need it.”
But the Cedarville experience extends far beyond quality, hands-on academics. As Harner explains, “We teach not only theory, process, skills and content but also what it’s like to be a Christian in a work environment. Our students have an outstanding work ethic and know how to be a productive member of a team.”
And Kaleb is certainly no exception. Knowing he was representing Christ, he approached his internship with excitement, discipline and integrity. His supervisor later commented, “Kaleb exceeded our expectations and struck me as a well-rounded, intelligent, hard-working individual. YSI would be very interested in future Cedarville interns.”
Because of students like Kaleb Eldridge, companies recognize both the value of a Cedarville University education and the caliber of its students. With the skills and character for success, Cedarville students are fulfilling their dreams — and setting an example in the process.