An Exciting Few Months at GCC!

Students at Glendale Community College have to find a balance between academics and extracurricular activities. Companies demand hands-on experience these days in addition to good grades.  We were at the San Diego Maker Faire, one of the largest events in Southern California, where hundreds of people gather to exchange ideas and see what other ‘makers’ have created – the weekend before, then Glendale Tech Week, and finally helped run the Latinas in Stem workshop the weekend after. The last week has been really exciting, and a lesson in multitasking.

Twenty-five volunteers covered the event over the course of three days.  Scarlet Galvez, president of SHPE of GCC, and myself, worked for 3 months to organize the logistics of our presence at Glendale Tech Week. Aside from logistics, we also had to prepare a number of projects, including:: a student-made 3D Printer with 18”x18” heated bed and dual extruders, a 3D Photo booth which uses a LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system to generate 3D point clouds, a remotely operated vehicle which uses 4-Wheel tank drive, and a few more projects created by students at GCC.

The projects which were demonstrated are the result of months (sometimes years) of work of students in the Engineering Capstone class (ENGR 298) which focuses on robotics. In this class, students engage one another in a collaborative work environment which models a real-world internship/research experience.

The class is taught by three engineering mentors who oversee the work of students. The students who take this course come from a variety of disciplines, which primarily include: mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, software engineering, computer science, manufacturing, and some undecided students. Although the class focuses on robotics and students typically enrolled are engineering majors, the course is available to any student who is highly motivated and have project experience.

The primary driving force of the class are the students themselves. Students must be highly motivated in order to obtain the most out of this experience. Typically, students who are the most active throughout the experience are the ones who find this program the most rewarding. Students learn the principles of engineering design which helps prepare them for transfer to university, and are able to more easily join projects with the experience they have gained.  The class also helps student be more competitive when applying for internship opportunities.

Since the GCC Engineering/Robotics began, students have gone on to intern at places such as: NASA/JPL, USC LPL (Liquid Propulsion Lab), Caltech Aerospace Mentoring Program, and the NASA community college programs. Students have been accepted to schools including: Caltech, Cal Poly SLO, Cal Poly Pomona, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, and many more.

The primary reason for our success at Glendale Tech Week was the involvement of Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE of GCC), an organization dedicated to empowering people who have historically been disadvantaged.  SHPE students are heavily embedded into the Glendale Community College Engineering/Robotics program. Students worked hard to make sure that projects were ready to go for Glendale Tech Week.

The long-term goal of the SHPE chapter at GCC is to help expose other students to different educational programs and to provide students with STEM-related volunteering opportunities, such as Glendale Tech Week and Maker Faire: San Diego. Additionally, being a SHPE member allows STEM students to be a part of the personal community that we have helped foster. SHPE members develop close bonds one another as they tackle courses such as physics, calculus, chemistry, and other engineering related courses.  SHPE is an international organization with excellent connections and networking opportunities for its members.

In a world where you need to understand circuit design to diagnose your car’s engine problems, or structural engineering concepts to build an art installation, technical fields are becoming increasingly blurred.  The need for skilled employees with a solid understanding of engineering design principles is essential for the careers of the future.

The workforce of the future will need to have broad knowledge in many fields, be productive in the workplace from day one, have the ability to quickly adapt, and most importantly to self-learn the skill they need for their next job.  Robotics is a great medium for teaching these concepts and engaging students, because of it’s[CH1]  inherent fun and multidisciplinary nature.

The Glendale Robotics Academy was established to provide a cutting-edge curriculum in the fields of robotics, mechanical and electrical engineering, and computer science, as well as teach fundamentals to project planning and execution that are essential to perform at a high level in the modern workplace.  We work closely with our manufacturing and business departments to infuse a real-world experience for students preparing for careers in engineering.

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