Slow Starter Finds Niche Teaching High-Tech Skills

El Vaquero Staff Writer

“For some students it is easy to graduate from high school knowing they are going to become a doctor, a teacher, or even a journalist, but for other students it is hard to figure out what they want to be,” said Tom Ferguson, who teaches Basic Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) and Mechanical Desktop Computers at GCC.

Growing up in Glendale, Ferguson struggled to figure out what he wanted to do. After he graduated from Hoover High School he decided to try GCC.

“After attending GCC for a semester, I started working with a telephone company. It was here when my boss saw the talent that I have in designing things,” he recalled.

From there on, Ferguson developed his talent in designing things. He eventually worked as a military aircraft designer for 10 years. He then went on to work in environmental agriculture for seven years.

“I do miss working as an aircraft designer and in environmental agriculture, but I still love the satisfaction of teaching GCC students because I have real-life experiences students can learn from,” he said.
Outside of teaching at the college, Ferguson is a well-known designer in the San Fernando Valley. He recently designed the monument “Valley of the Stars,” which was created by the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley in 1998 in its efforts to create a positive image and a name-brand identity for the San Fernando Valley.

“This monument was created by the Economic Alliance for the communities in the San Fernando Valley area including the city of Glendale, even though the city does not consider itself part of the valley,” said Ferguson.

The idea of making the monument originated from Gloria Gold, who is part of the Economic Alliance Image Committee, and also a longtime resident of North Hollywood.

Gold came up with the concept for the original design, which was presented to the Image Committee.

Her idea became the starting point for the current monument, which was designed by Ferguson.

“When the Economic Alliance approached GCC, they had a 3-D model of the monument which gave me an idea of what exactly they wanted to see in it,” said Ferguson.

The monument sports several five-cornered stars representing the five cities that make up the San Fernando Valley.

The stars above the top of the monument represent the mountains that surround the San Fernando Valley.

Image Committee, after consulting with Ferguson, started the initial designs for the monument using the college’s CAD programs and started producing the Rapid Prototype (RP) models.

Then, with the help of student Tim Papienski, he created the professional and photo realistic rendering of the monument.

“The procedure of producing the Rapid Prototype models produces solid objects generated from computer files,” Ferguson said.

“Then the sculpture or mechanical device can be authored in a 3-D design software application, such as Maya or AutoCAD. Then it can be printed in layers of horizontal sections.

“Later, the files are converted to stereo-lithography files, which are used by the RP software to produce a construction matrix, which is then used by stereo-lithography printer.”

The final design for “Valley of the Stars” was accomplished in a week, but the installment of the monument in North Hollywood took much longer.

“It took forever for the final production. I was worried that this production would never be finished,” said Ferguson.

“Finally the city council gave out their approval for the installment of the monument.”

Ferguson’s aimas an instructor is to give students, like Papienski, a chance to gain real-world experience in the rapidly growing technology.