New equipment helps Marshalltown Learning Academy students build real-world skills


Marshalltown Learning Academy received new equipment to help students build real-world skills. Pictured with some of the equipment is MLA Career Development and STEM Coordinator Nicole Critchfield and MLA student Caine Garrett.

New equipment has arrived at Marshalltown Learning Academy to help build real-world skills for students. The two new systems include Mechatronics and Mechanical Fabrication.




The Mechatronics system equipment is specialized for learning manufacturing skills. The rise of automation requires a skilled, well-trained workforce that understands the fundamentals, operation and programming of mechatronic components and programmable logic controllers. The impact and applications of mechatronics grows by the day, so industries need skilled workers who understand these complex systems.

Mechanical Fabrication


While using the Mechanical Fabrication training system, students will have real-world, hands-on tools training and basic assembly skills training with components such as screwdrivers, wrenches, and sockets. A few of the skills students will be practicing are: inspecting and installing a threaded fastener; using fixed, adjustable, Allen and ratchet wrenches to tighten threaded fasteners; and installing pipe thread and straight thread pneumatic fittings.

“It is my hope that using this equipment and style of learning will provide our students with the skills that employers in our region are asking for,” said Nicole Critchfield, Career Development & STEM Coordinator at MLA. “The ultimate goal for this program would be to have students learning on the simulator and then spend some time at our local businesses seeing how the same processes work on a full-scale.”

This learning is part of Personalized Extended Learning Opportunity (PELO) at MLA, which provides a chance for students to learn something new in an unconventional manner.

“This allows the student to study something not offered in the program of studies for elective credit,” Critchfield said.

The equipment was funded by a STEM Best grant received by MLA. Marshalltown Learning Academy is a high school for at-risk students in the Marshalltown Community School District.