Making a Difference, One Robot at a Time

As students at Glendale Community College, we 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 gathered to exchange ideas and see what other ‘makers’ have created. Less than 24 hours later, we participated in Glendale Tech Week. Finally, that immediate weekend after Tech Week, we helped run the Latinas in Stem workshop. The last couple of weeks have 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 at GCC, and Enrique Cernas Aguilar worked for three 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 3-D printer with an 18 inches by 18 inches heated bed and dual extruders; a 3-D photo booth which uses a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system to generate 3-D point clouds; a remotely operated vehicle which uses four-wheel drive tank, and a few more projects created by students at GCC.

The projects which were demonstrated are the result of months (sometimes years) of work by 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 can 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.

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 like Caltech, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Pomona, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and UC Irvine, among others.

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 and Robotics program. Students worked hard to make sure that projects were ready to go for Glendale Tech Week.

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, 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 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.