Portage Lakes Career Center


Mike Merda

PLCC Adult Education Program Icon

Computer Drafting / Engineering Student

 I guess it started with Legos and went from there. I’ve always liked designing things, building things,  following directions, and seeing the end result. 

Drawing/Drafting was something I loved but I didn’t draw pictures, it was always design stuff. I attended ninth and tenth grades at Green High School, which was right down the street from where I grew up. My favorite classes were architectural design (drafting). Back in those days, we were drawing on boards with pencils. My parents saw something in me that was different from my siblings so they encouraged me to apply to PLCC. 

When I was accepted to the computer aided drafting/engineering program, I was a little bit nervous, but mostly excited. I wasn’t concerned about missing out on what was happening at my home high school of Green High,  because I knew I would still have my friends from there. I was able to continue to play on the varsity soccer team my junior and senior years. 

When I was thinking about going to PLCC, I heard some negativity, like you’ll never go to college, you won’t be successful, you won’t make enough money.

I can tell you, that’s simply not true.

When I started at PLCC, I knew some kids from my high school but there were lots of kids from different schools. At the time, I had no idea how close we’d all become. 

It wasn’t like regular high school. For our Junior and Senior project, the whole school got involved: automotive, welding, electrical, and other programs. For example, I’d draw something and then an hour later, they’d be cutting it in welding class. I could see immediately if something was going to work or if I had to make some adjustments to my drawings. It was so cool. I never would have had that experience at my high school. 

For our senior project, we created a robot, Robo92 that was supposed to draft a line on a drafting board. I can remember starting the project in our junior year and we continued into our senior year, and it was the best experience I could have ever had in school. People from Goodyear and Schrader-Bellows worked on parts of the project with us, and donated their products to see it work. We had initially designed it to only be a torso but we got carried away with the project once we got into it. It ended up being about 5-feet tall, with legs, lights for eyes, and it moved its arms. It looked kind of like The Terminator. The Akron Beacon Journal even did a feature story on our robot because it was something no other school had ever done at the time. 

If it was possible, I’d go back and say thanks to my teachers because they were amazing. My drafting teacher, George Gorman, was still working in the architectural/engineering industry when he taught us. He was the catapult to getting me to where I am now.

I graduated from PLCC in 1992, with a Computer Aided Drafting/Engineering diploma, along with my Green High school diploma. 

With my skill set, I had the option to go right into a trade, but I went on to earn an associate’s degree in fire protection technology at the University of Akron and graduated in 1996. Still, I knew from the get-go that I’d be using what I learned at PLCC for a long time.

During summers in college, I worked for Auto-Tech Fire Systems, designing, engineering and helping sometimes  installing fire protection/suppression systems. They gave me an AutoCAD test and hired me on the spot because they were impressed with my drafting skills. When I’d go to job sites, I’d sketch up drawings and then put them on AutoCAD later. It was a great learning experience because I had a lot of independence. 

I ended up taking the skills I learned at PLCC to a higher level and a much faster pace. In the beginning of my career, places would give job candidates a AutoCAD test. At the time, most people didn’t know how to even open the program, and I was halfway done with the test. I blew them away with what I knew. I’ve used AutoCAD working with several companies throughout the years. As new technology like 3D AutoCAD and Revit came along, I’d just dove right in. I’m still learning as I go.

For the past two plus  years, I’ve worked for Osborn Engineering Company, in the Cleveland office. I started as a Senior Plumbing Designer and was then promoted to Associate Director of Plumbing. Some of the projects I’ve worked on here include multi-family homes, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Oberlin College, mall renovations, and Minute Men Staffing Services, just to name a few. My favorite part of the job is learning different ways to calculate or show plumbing layouts on drawings to make them code compliant. 

My wife and I live in Berea with our two sons, ages 18 and 15. Our oldest is in a culinary arts program at Polaris Career Center. I encouraged him to pursue his interests. Our other son attends Berea High School, but he’s also participating in The Project Lead the Way® Engineering Program that is offered through the Polaris Career Center.

I’ve had a great career and I’ve had a lot of success, but that took time and a lot of effort. My advice to any high school student who is considering PLCC is that you will never regret acquiring a skill set that will set you apart. If it’s not for you, you can always do something different. But if you do love it, like I did, you can find gratifying work, and love what you’re doing. Thank you Mr. Garman!

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If you are a high school student, please note that you will have several opportunities to visit PLCC during your sophomore year.

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Portage Lakes Career Center is accessible to visitors with physical disabilities. Visitors should contact the Main Office at 330-896-8200 prior to arrival for parking instructions and other information.