Brevard Community College (BCC), located on Florida’s “Space Coast,” consists of four campuses – in Cocoa, Melbourne, Titusville, and Palm Bay – as well as an extension center at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and annually serves more than 42,000 Brevard County residents. The majority of credit-seeking students are enrolled in the college's A.A. degree program, which paves the way to a four-year degree, but BCC also offers many A.S. degree and certificate programs that prepare students for an array of technical and professional careers.
The college is currently considering the development of an A.S. degree program in marine technology, thanks to a number of factors. These include strong interest and determination on the part of Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Susan Phillips and Collegewide Dean of Technical Education Don Astrab as well as BCC’s relationship with the MATE Center over the past two years.
"What I like about a marine technology A.S. degree program is that, in two years, students can actually be more marketable, because they have the technology behind them"
Currently BCC is conducting a “needs assessment” of local industries to identify employer work force needs. Numerous requests for marine technicians have prompted curriculum review and development sessions for an A.S. degree program. Three program tracks – for marine technician, distributed energy technician, and marine electronics – are under consideration.
Connections with industry have always been important for BCC. “We want industry involvement early on in any plan for a new program,” explains Astrab. “We ask about their needs, and we solicit help in planning and implementation.” Typical roles that companies take on include participation on advisory committees, helping with curriculum development, and providing internship opportunities and career placement.
Phillips sees a clear need for such an A.S. degree program. Because she teaches biology and the college is located on the coast, many of her students plan to pursue a career in marine biology. “Unfortunately, however, a large percentage of those who graduate with a four-year degree in marine biology never get work in the field,” Phillips explains. “What I like about a marine technology A.S. degree program is that, in two years, students can actually be more marketable, because they have the technology behind them.”
"The majority of credit-seeking students are enrolled in the college's A.A. degree program, which paves the way to a four-year degree, but BCC also offers many A.S. degree and certificate programs that prepare students for an array of technical and professional careers"
The MATE Connection
In the spring of 2001 a notice about the MATE Center’s upcoming Summer Institute for faculty development (Introduction to Submersible Technology: Teaching this Course at Your Institution) crossed Phillips’ desk. “I really felt a need to incorporate technology into typical biology degrees, so the opportunity to learn more about ROVs seemed perfect,” she explains.
At the Summer Institute Phillips learned about the MATE Center’s national student ROV design competition (see p. X) and decided that putting a team together could introduce BCC students to technology and give the college some exposure to the field of marine technology at the same time. Don Astrab suggested that the team use his department's Project Management and Engineering course, where the focus is on a design and building project, as a way to receive academic credit for their efforts.
“We functioned almost like a mini-company,” Phillips explains. Assignments were divided into pre-design, design, and post-design phases, and tasks covered the full range of responsibilities. Students worked on the structure, software, video, and lighting, for example. Positions included a budget director (to handle donations and grant money), photographers, tech writers, and sponsorship recruiters. The class kept a project notebook including meeting summaries, design ideas, research results, the students’ resumes, a timeline, and more.
“It took the hard work of everyone involved to create The Titan (the team’s ROV) and I’m proud to say I’m a part of this team,” says student Kristy Gray. “I learned about communication, dedication, and teamwork.”
Team captain Billy Fried found the experience invaluable. “I’ve always had an interest in engineering and robotics, but my career goal has been focused toward the biological sciences,” he explains. “Thanks to MATE’s ROV competition, I’ve discovered a market that integrates both fields. This has profoundly influenced my career track.”
The team had a lot of help from mentors and sponsors in the community. Twelve local companies donated cash or in-kind contributions, and mentors came from organizations such as Oases, an environmental technology lab; Innovative Fabrication, an aluminum boat fabrication company; NASA’s Prototype Lab at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC); and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution.
Helping out as the ‘Home Team’
Because the ROV competition was originally scheduled to take place nearby at the KSC, Brevard was the ‘home team.’ “When it became clear that, logistically, the underwater portion of the competition couldn’t take place at KSC, I offered to help,” explains Phillips.
“Sue jumped right in. She put me in touch with the president of BCC's Cocoa campus, which is closest to KSC, and helped facilitate the use of its pool for the underwater event,” says Jill Zande, competition coordinator and MATE outreach director. “Sue also helped coordinate other on-site logistics – before, during, and after the competition.”
A Good Fit
BCC’s relationship with the MATE Center has opened doors to its students and faculty alike. “Working with the MATE staff; the Summer Institute participating educators; and the ROV competition judges, mentors, and sponsors has inspired me to steer my students in pioneering directions in marine technology,” says Phillips. “I’ve also formed lifelong marine industry and academic partnerships throughout the nation.”
By participating in the competition, students like Billy Fried and Kristy Gray have had the opportunity to learn new skills and have been exposed to new career options. As the relationship with the MATE Center continues and plans for BCC’s A.S. degree progress, it’s certain that students, faculty, and the local community will be even better served.
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