GCC highlights its manufacturing program

Robots, 3-D printers, computer-numerical-control machines and the tools students produce with them were on display Friday during an open house highlighting Glendale Community College’s manufacturing and robotics programs.

Also on hand were a dozen members of the college’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Club, who were selling hot dogs to raise money to attend the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Conference next month in Maryland.

Jose Martinez, the club’s president, secured an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory after attending the conference last year in Southern California.

As he’s finishing his studies at Glendale Community College, Martinez is also collaborating with JPL employees to work on the design of a deployment mechanism that would let solar cells expand on a nanosatellite, which is only inches in size.

“Just having that internship, I really feel it’s going to expand my opportunities later on, once I graduate,” he said.

Fernando Santana, the club’s vice president, said he is hopeful club members can raise about $6,000 to cover travel expenses to Maryland. He pointed to Martinez’ success at landing the JPL internship and said he hopes the same will happen for fellow classmates, no matter the field they pursue.

“That’s the kind of opportunities we like to offer students,” he said. “That’s how their knowledge base grows. That’s how they get their connections.”

Santana himself is interested in one day working for a major car manufacturer.

“One of the things I dream about — I strive for — is to make cars, work for a big automotive company or maybe start my own. Everything in a car, the bodywork, the mechanics, everything is done for a purpose. That’s the one thing I really, really like.”

The space on campus dedicated to engineering and robotics is also where students get hands-on experience.

A roving robot the students made last year that was designed to pick up trash and can read whether a cup was red or blue will be improved upon this year, according to Armen Toorian, an engineering clinic director at the campus. He teaches robotics within the technology-and-aviation division.

Most students come to him with no more experience than having taken math and physics courses, while some have been on robotics teams.

“We have to come up with projects that are challenging and interesting for both,” he said.

Christopher Herwerth began his post at Glendale Community College at the end of August as the college’s first full-time engineering instructor, and he will help develop curriculum for the program so students can easily transfer to a four-year university in two years.

“I have a particular interest in helping unprepared or underprepared students, especially underrepresented populations,” he said.

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