From the time he was a kid, Ben Diggins was happiest when working – and playing – with his hands.
He figured he would grow up to be a mechanic working on cars, trucks, and heavy equipment like his father, who operated a construction company and maintained his own equipment.
Then Diggins took an EAST initiative class at Bryant High School. The Environmental and Spatial Technology course expanded his horizons. Not only could spend his life turning wrenches on machines, he could create those machines from the ground up. Diggins wanted to be an engineer that had a hands-on role on the factory floor.
He searched surrounding states and Arkansas schools until he found exactly what he wanted at UALR’s Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology. He enrolled in EIT’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program and took courses that included plant engineering, machine design, computer aided engineering, robotics and automation, and more.
“It gave me what I was looking for with the engineering side of things – a real hands-on approach that allowed me to do what I loved to do, turning wrenches, while still having the design side approach that I wanted,” he said.
Outside class, he participated in the Society of Automotive Engineer’s Baja SAE competition, where teams of college students design, build, and race their unique dune buggy vehicles in real-time competitions, dealing with design flaws and mechanical breakdowns and coming up with quick fixes to keep in the race.
“It was so much fun,” Diggins said. “We went through the process of 3-D modeling, building prototypes through road testing the things in real life. It was a great process to learn what I’m doing every day.”
During his four years at UALR, he landed an assortment of internship positions, from working at different forming mills and an energy efficiency company to working in heavy industry. The experience Diggins acquired through the internships helped him land his first professional job just days after commencement.
“Upon graduation, I heard there was an opening at the Caterpillar plant that had just recently opened in North Little Rock,” he said. “I applied and was interviewed and offered the job within the same week. This Caterpillar plant has been my big playground. I love it here.‘’