San Jacinto College, UHCL launch collaborative Tech Friday activities

05.05.2014 | By Rob Vanya

From left, San Jacinto College exemplary math students Miguel Rosales, Harrison Mast, and Darby Macha participated in Tech Friday learning exercises. The three are shown working on a robotics device at the College’s robotics lab. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.

 

San Jacinto College and the University of Houston Clear Lake (UHCL) recently launched Tech Friday, a collaborative initiative designed to engage students in computer programing, working with robotics, and other math-intensive tasks.

Three Tech Friday meetings will be held each semester, with meetings alternating between the two colleges. In addition to students from the two colleges, area high school students will periodically attend Tech Friday meetings.

Collaboration offers advantages for students from both colleges. “UHCL and San Jacinto College have different areas of expertise, and involving both colleges allows for more activities and more resources to be leveraged,” commented Nate Wiggins, San Jacinto College math and engineering professor. “We’re really good at student recruitment, and UHCL works with our students who transfer to help them complete degrees, so it makes for a natural partnership.”

Tech Friday also indirectly aims to increase completion rates for students in STEM areas of study (science, technology, engineering, and math). “We also hope the combination of actions will increase the number of students who start as San Jacinto College, and finish at UHCL,” commented Wiggins.

Dr. Sadegh Davari, UHCL computing and mathematics division chair, said it is important to provide college and high school students activities that generate interest in STEM-related areas of study. “Our goal with activities such as Tech Fridays is to get students excited by providing them the opportunity to experience the practical aspects of science and engineering fields,” he remarked. “We also hope that participating in Tech Fridays on our campuses will eliminate some of the fears that high school kids have of college life.”

Most of the first Tech Friday meeting, held recently at UHCL, was devoted to learning about Arduino boards and sensors. An Arduino is a basic, single-board microcontroller, which is basically a small computer with enough hardware components to allow a cost-effective way of performing basic computing tasks. Students learned to perform introductory level tasks with Arduino boards, such as making lights blink and sending messages to smart phones via Bluetooth adapters.

Advanced students also demonstrated some robotic devices, showing how placement of an Arduino onto servo motors can be used in operation of complex robotics.

Jarrett Lockridge, who graduated from San Jacinto College and now attends UHCL, said participating in such a large group gathering provides a creative and stimulating learning environment.

“Math, engineering, and STEM in general is all about being able to work together to solve problems, or improve upon solutions, no matter how big or small,” Lockridge said. “Working in a large group like Tech Friday made sure that if anyone ran into trouble, someone could assist them. The best part of Tech Friday was working in a relaxed and fun environment, which is crucial to getting more people interested in STEM.”

Lockridge earned an associate degree in math at San Jacinto College in 2012. He plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from UHCL in 2015, and then to earn a master’s degree in either computer or electrical engineering at either UHCL or the University of Texas. His ultimate career goal is to start an engineering firm.

San Jacinto College offers math and engineering courses and associate degree options at all three campuses, and participating in Tech Friday activities is open to any San Jacinto College student.

 

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit www.sanjac.edu, or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SanJacintoCollege.