Chris Batten takes his technology know-how to the next level

Three years ago, Chris Batten decided to bolster years of technology experience working at C-CORE, Memorial University and the Marine Institute (MI) with a degree.

This week he received a  Bachelor of Technology, an online program offered by School of Ocean Technology (SOT).

He says the degree program lived up to his expectations.

“I wanted to develop more management-style skills that could be applied to the classroom and progress my career to the next level – and I think the program does a good job of that. Any technologist who’s looking for that next step should consider it.”

Part-time student

A full-time electrotechnology lab demonstrator with SOT, Mr. Batten works with students in MI’s diploma and degree programs, including those in the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) technician program underwater vehicles program, and the School of Maritime Studies marine engineering program.

He’s also involved in MI efforts to engage high school students around the province in ocean technology and career opportunities – giving presentations on underwater technology and overseeing hands-on demonstrations in which students assemble ROV kits and pilot them in a tank. And he volunteers with the MATE NL Regional ROV Competition for junior high and school students held annually in MI’s flume tank.

He opted to work on his degree part-time, starting in 2016 – the same year he became a first-time father to his three-year-old son, Hunter.

“I remember doing courses and writing a term paper with a crying baby on my lap. That made things a little more challenging for sure.”

Electronics technology

In 2003, he completed a diploma in electronics engineering technology (computers and IT) from the College of the North Atlantic and landed a job with C-CORE known for its ice engineering, geo technical engineering and remote sensing expertise.

At C-CORE, he trained under Karl Tuff who got him more interested in electronics.

"He changed my path. Working in the electronics field was not my plan – at the time I was more interested in the computer side of things.”

From there, he went to Memorial’s Technical Services as an electronics design technologist before moving to MI's Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources (CSAR) as an instrumentation technologist.

Mr. Batten was involved CSAR’s biodegradable twine project to reduce ghost fishing by lost crab pot in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“I did field work to test the materials – taking the twine out to the fishermen, putting it in crab pots and letting soak in the water, and then we did strength tests to determine which twine and thickness we should use for crab-escape mechanisms in the pots. At the time, there was no section of twine that degraded to let the crab escape.”

Digital tools

Since 2009, he has worked at SOT. During the most recent tech session, he taught computer-aided fabrication – familiarizing students with a three-dimensional design program known as SolidWorks, 3D printing and a computer numerical control (CNC) router.

A 3D printer creates objects by building them one tiny layer at a time and these layers stick together to form a solid object – anything from a three-dimensional image of a seafloor map to ROV parts. The CNC router, which is programmed using 3D design software, cuts detailed shapes from wood, steel or composites. It is designed to create precision parts and increase productivity.

“We wanted our students to do a better job on their course projects, so we’re teaching them to use the computers and computer-controlled tools instead of doing hand-drawn designs and cutting their objects out by hand.

“We had a group last term who designed their own nose and tail cones and fins for an autonomous underwater vehicle.”

In the future, he’s aiming to develop a Makerspace at the institute – a workspace where students learn to use tools and materials, explore their own interests and projects, and gain valuable hands-on experience.