Glendale College receives $335K grant to open a makerspace center this year

Armen Toorian, an engineering professor at Glendale Community College, is one step closer to developing a hands-on curriculum for students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which are otherwise known as the STEM fields.

With Toorian’s help, Glendale College received a $335,687 grant for the 2017-18 school year from the California Community College CCC Maker project, which helps college’s establish maker programs where STEM students can prepare for their careers.

Based on performance, the college could receive $336,361 for 2018-19, according to Paul Feist, vice chancellor of communications for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

Makerspaces are centers where students can collaborate with peers and faculty to work on projects using equipment such as 3-D printers, computer-aided-design software and laser cutters.

Earlier this year, 34 colleges were awarded seed grants to develop makerspace plans. Twenty-eight submitted plans, and 24 were awarded the most recent grants that range from $100,000 to $350,000 annually for two years.

“Nowadays, you can’t get a job without hands-on experience,” Toorian said. “Companies will say, ‘Show me the projects you’ve worked on.’ That’s becoming more and more important.”

He described the center akin to a journalism student’s ability to gain experience by writing for the school paper. The makerspace, Toorian said, is for STEM students to design and build projects.

For now, the makerspace center will be housed in the college’s robotics lab in the advanced technology building. It will be available to students by the winter semester.

There are plans to open more centers throughout the college by the second year of the grant.

“For students like me, it’s important to have a place where we can go and learn more about engineering and robotics through instructors and people in the industry,” said Enrique Cernas Aguilar, an engineering student at the college.

Engineering students who are unsure about where they should specialize will hopefully be inspired by seeing their peers’ work, Cernas Aguilar added.

The lab is currently stocked with electronic equipment to build circuit boards, computers, laser cutters, various hand tools and 3-D printers. Funds will be used to help replenish materials at the end of the year.

Using the lab, students have created mobile robotics that drive around autonomously and an autonomous French-press coffee machine.

“This hands-on learning helps build those skills and helps students learn how to teach themselves things even if it means looking things up on YouTube or the Internet to advance their skills as time goes by,” said Toorian.

priscella.vega@latimes.com

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