Date: Mon, Mar 20th, 2023

Elliot Roberts finds new heights with Great Falls College

Elliot Roberts created a tool box for his soldering iron with the college's 3D printer. He is encouraging more students to make use of the printer.

After COVID grounded him for a little bit, Elliot Roberts found his wings at Great Falls College.

When he graduated as a top student at Great Falls High in 2020, Roberts went to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks first with the thought to become a pilot.

Later, he changed routes when he saw the havoc COVID caused the airline industry, but he still went to Grand Forks.

It didn’t work out for a variety of reasons.

“I was pretty low,” he said about returning home.

Now, Roberts is soaring as he is set to finish his associate of applied science degree in network support and security.

“(Great Falls College) was not even a Plan A or even a Plan B,” Roberts said. “I did a semester (in Grand Forks), and then I came home. In the spring of 2021, I finished up my MUS core certificate to get all of my cores out of the way, and I spent the semester soul-searching, ‘What am I going to do?’ And I realized I wanted to work with computers.”

He decided to continue at Great Falls College.

 “It wasn’t that I felt a stigma about going to a two-year, it just wasn’t even on my brain to go to a two-year even though I have family who works here,” said Roberts, whose mother, Carmen, is the executive director of operations at Great Falls College. “’Oh, you’re a good student, you have to go to a four-year school. You have to get a bachelor’s degree.’ And I think if that wasn’t told to me for so long (by society), I probably would have thought about this more, approached how I wanted to go to school differently.”

He hasn’t regretted it as he is getting experiences he wouldn’t at a larger university, he said.

“I’m going to get more out of my degree here and have more experience networking than I ever would at a four-year,” Roberts said.

At Great Falls College, he has had the chance to be a work-study student in the information technology in addition to doing his course work.

One part of his work-study job is maintaining the campus’ 3D printer, which is available for any student to use for free since it was paid for out of the student fund.

Roberts also is the 3D printer’s biggest user, which he would like to see change.

“Anybody that is a student can use it,” Roberts said. “It was paid for by student funds. We have had dual-credit students come in and use it. Whether you are full-time, part-time, dual-credit, it doesn’t matter. If you are a student at Great Falls College, you can come and use it.”

He is working on getting the word out.

“It’s been sad that it isn’t being used more,” he said.

Students just need to talk to Dr. Brenda Canine about getting access to the student research lab, and she will get them all set up, Roberts said.

Students can use the printer just for fun or for their coursework or a presentation they are giving.

“Anything,” he said. ““There are no requirements for what is being created on the printer.”

He said it can be a little daunting at first, but there are excellent handbooks and YouTube videos to get students started.

He said he didn’t have any experience when he started using the printer.

He recently printed a case for his soldering iron, and he’s made a charging station for his watch and phone in addition to fun projects such as creating characters.

“I’m going to print an otter, so the college has that,” he said.

Next up for Roberts is completing that bachelor’s degree. He said he is prepared to enter the workforce with the Great Falls College degree he will be earning in a couple months, but he wants to continue his education and perhaps even go on to get a master’s degree.

His academic journey has made him reconsider his path.

“Now, I’m just kind of going with the flow, doing things I like, and I’ll see where it takes me and just say yes to more things,” he said as he spreads his wings. 

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Record Number: 811