Pasadena City College has received $3,875,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to expand a program that provides job skills to engineering students and helps them work toward their bachelor’s degrees.
The college’s Design Technology Pathway program may expand from 25 students to as many as 300 over five years as a result of the grant.
With a focus on collaborative projects and problem-solving exercises, the program is intended to give students a leg up in the job market, according to co-founders Deborah Bird, a PCC architecture professor, and Salomón Dávila, a PCC engineering professor.
“One of the first things they tell you is to stop thinking like a high-school student,´ said Sandra Perez, 21, a member of the inaugural Design Tech class who hopes to someday help design space vehicles. “It’s OK to get away from the book and do something that’s real.”
Students are trained in 3-D scanning and design software, laser cutting and milling to prepare them for careers in architecture, engineering and graphic, product or fashion design.
Those who complete Design Tech classes and obtain their two-year degrees are guaranteed transfer to Cal Poly Pomona to pursue an engineering degree.
In addition to the federal grant, college officials also are pursuing a related grant from the James Irvine Foundation to help recruit graduates from John Muir High School and Pasadena High School.
PCC qualified for the grant under a Department of Education program supporting schools attended by large numbers of Latino students. More than 36% of PCC students are Latino.
Dávila said the Design Tech program is loosely based on so-called small learning communities at high schools, which focus curriculum across different disciplines on shared themes, such as science or the arts. Dávila and Bird, both former high school teachers, work with other professors to align required English and math classes with Design Tech workshops.
PCC has received $17 million in grant awards over the past two years, helping to offset a loss of $25 million in state funding, according to PCC President Mark Rocha.
“This grant acknowledges Pasadena City College as a national leader in developing innovative new programs to prepare students for 21st-century jobs,” said PCC President Mark Rocha.
-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News
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