Cat Presents First Two AET Scholarships

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Caterpillar scholarship award recipients with Cat and college officials.
Caterpillar awards the first two scholarships to Western Dakota Tech College's new Autonomous Equipment Technician program. Pictured from left are: Jennie Best, assistant director of scholarships; Ann Bolman, Ed. D., Western Dakota Tech College president; Gannon Pudwill, recipient; Matt Williams, recipient; and Justin Sanchez, Cat MineStar training manager.

The first two scholarships for Western Dakota Tech College’s new Autonomous Equipment Technician (AET) program were recently awarded by Caterpillar Inc. 

Gannon Pudwill and Matt Williams were the first two scholarship recipients for the nine-month, two-semester certificate program for the spring. Caterpillar will offer an additional four full scholarships for students entering the AET program in the fall.

“Caterpillar is excited to offer a total of six full-ride Autonomous Equipment Technician scholarships in 2022 to kick off this new program,” says Justin Sanchez, Cat MineStar Solutions global training manager. “It greatly benefits students with interests in pursuing mining technology careers. With students learning about Caterpillar’s technologies for autonomy, this program helps to build a pipeline of new individuals to the mining field that will benefit Caterpillar, Cat dealers, and mine sites in general.”

The new AET certification program is the first of its kind at the Rapid City, S.D. based school. 

“We would like to thank Caterpillar for coming to Western Dakota Technical College with the program idea and for the hard work in putting together the scholarships,” said college president, Ann Bolman, Ed. D. “It’s an innovative idea, and we are so appreciative of the company’s support. It’s a great opportunity for our students.”

According to Caterpillar, the program provides in-depth instruction for the skills required to install, commission, and maintain electrical and mechanical systems relating to autonomous mining technology. With its overview of general mining practices, the program bridges the gap between basic mechanical systems and advanced IT systems. 

Principles of electricity, networking, welding, and mechanical skills learned during the course provide a foundation for the support of Caterpillar mining technology products and various autonomous systems. 

Upon completing the AET program, graduates leave with 24-30 college credit hours and the skills to support technology offerings that range from machine health and fleet management software to fully autonomous mining operations. 

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Scholarship applications are now being accepted for the second, fall-2022 AET program. Enrollment for WDTC’s fall courses starts in March 2022. More information about the full AET curriculum can be found at Students can apply for the scholarship online at WDTC’s website or call the scholarship office at 605-719-3064.