Prior to enrolling at Montana Tech in Fall 2021, Andrew Daigle admits that he was not sure college was the right path after his college athletic prospects were narrowed significantly by policies enacted during the pandemic.
Daigle, an environmental engineering sophomore, knew he didn’t want to spend most of his time at a desk. He wanted to roll up his sleeves and solve problems affecting his community.
“If I pursued a degree, I wanted it to be meaningful and hands-on. I wanted to have the opportunity to do fieldwork,” Daigle remembers.
While in high school at Walnut Creek, California, Daigle took an AP Environmental Science class that was a major catalyst in opening his mind to how humanity’s actions can drive environmental crises. He credits that course, his teacher, and his future wife with setting him on a path to make an impact through environmental work.
“Montana Tech’s Environmental Engineering program has a great reputation,” Daigle said.
Two years later, he is a sophomore on track for graduation in 2025 who was just named a 2023 Utility Forum Next Generation Student Scholarship recipient by the TMG Utility Forum. The scholarship was awarded to five students. Three are from North Carolina State University and one is from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The scholarship allows students to attend TMG’s Utility Forums.
“We recognize the need for a new generation in the utility industry and hope to provide students with industry-related programs with opportunities to meet prospective employers and mentors, as well as provide them with timely hands-on information they may not have access to otherwise,” TMG Vice President of Marketing Amanda Baak said in a press release.
Daigle was connected with the scholarship opportunity after attending UIIC Symposium, Setting A Solid Foundation: Utility Imagery & Inspection Operations in Spokane, Washington in June. There, Daigle learned about federal regulations on emissions that will impact all utility companies by 2030, and how technology needs to be better integrated into utility delivery systems.
“The primary subject addressed was remote inspection of our power infrastructure by means of drones,” Daigle said.
Some utility companies are moving away from inspection of powerlines by linemen, and instead toward inspection of lines by technologically advanced drones equipped with cameras, lidar, and more. Some of the questions Daigle posed to the utility officials on hand were: What kind of damage to the lineman trade is anticipated? Is there a community reinvestment plan with the resources they are likely to save?
Only a handful of companies are currently using drones on the east coast and Southern California, and they couldn’t answer Daigle’s question concretely but reflected to previous eras of innovation and integration of technology; skilled labor is often retrained and diversified in their abilities as these technologies are integrated. As the conference went on, Daigle connected with professionals in the field, who were impressed with the coursework Daigle had tackled at Montana Tech, particularly classes utilizing ArcGIS, a geographic information processing program.
“The symposium opened my eyes to more opportunities,” Daigle said.
Right now, Daigle wants to stay in Butte after graduation. He has a wife, to whom he is grateful for supporting him, and a young son born during his freshman year. He’s the president of CRABS, the rugby team on campus, through which he has earned an opportunity to play rugby in New Zealand in the upcoming summer. He also plays a key role in the media team as director of video production for the Oredigger football team. It’s a skill that helped when he was at the conference in Spokane, and he helped do the film production for the event.
Daigle’s career goals are a bit open-ended right now, with plenty of room for growth and exploration.
“I want to be a part of fixing problems, and eventually get into the innovative side of things,” Daigle said.
His advice to new Orediggers?
“Don’t be afraid to get out there and challenge yourself,” Daigle said. “Make sure to befriend any classmate next to you in class. It's always best to make sure you have resources in every class. It is important to foster relationships, and in the future, you will have connections in other industries.”