From the Provost: ‘Makerspaces,’ success stories, Opportunity Youth Collaborative


Teaching “Design thinking” and envisioning “Makerspaces” for Highland Campus

Last month, I joined a group of administrators and faculty in a tour of the IBM Design Studio in Austin to explore ideas for the creative teaching spaces planned for the Highland Campus and for teaching “design thinking.”

Design thinking is a formal approach to creative problem-solving that starts with a goal (such as a better future situation) instead of focusing on solving a specific problem.

ausdedignstudioprovAttending the IBM tour were (left to right): Kimberly Duran, professor of architecture & engineering computer aided design; David Correa, professor of visual communication; Michael Hammonds, adjunct professor of visual communication and IBM Design advisory designer; Gail Bayeta, department chair and professor of visual communication; Linda Smarzik, dean of computer studies and advanced technology; Sara Farr, professor of visual communication; Marc Bonasso, associate professor of visual communication; Erlene Clark, associate professor of architecture & engineering computer aided design; and Doug Smith, department chair and professor of architecture & engineering computer aided design.

Following the tour, several of us headed to the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders to observe how students were using a “makerspace.” A makerspace emphasizes learning-through-doing in a community environment. “Makers” are encouraged to discover new applications for emerging technologies such as robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machine tools, and explore how they intersect with traditional activities such as metalworking and woodworking.

The makerspace concept is attracting the interest of educators who are concerned about students’ disengagement from STEM subjects taught in more conventional educational settings. Makerspaces are viewed as having the potential to offer a more participatory and relevant approach.

A student success story – Micah Fields


Proud dad Brent Fields with Micah Fields.

Former ACC student Micah Fields recently received a 2015 President’s Outstanding Senior award from the University of Montana.

Micah attended our Northridge Campus in 2011-2012 and transferred 31 credits to UM, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree with high honors. He is one of 10 students accepted as a teaching fellow to the prestigious Master of Fine Arts program in Nonfiction Writing at the University of Iowa for next year.

Micah also is a military veteran who credits ACC with helping him adjust to a civilian, academic life after service. He said, “Considering I was very afraid of heading straight into a full-time student career after getting out of the military, my experience was great. ACC staff are well-versed in the logistical maze that unfortunately comes with the use of veteran benefits. They have it down to a fairly painless system, whereas other institutions seem to fumble with communication between the VA and school administration. I didn’t feel isolated because I was a veteran using benefits, which is important.”

Micah’s dad, Brent, is the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas and a great friend and supporter of ACC.

More student successes: ACC A&E CAD Program

Companies from across the country recently have recruited students from our Architectural & Engineering Computer Aided Design Program for IC layout jobs.

IC layout involves using CAD tools to show how various microscopic-sized components are layered onto a silicon wafer to create an integrated circuit, or computer chip. ACC began offering IC layout training in the early ’80s and now offers three courses, culminating with a capstone course, Special Topics: Micro-Electro/Mechanical Systems (DFTG 1494), or IC 3.

In early April Austin’s Silicon Labs came to the college and interviewed six of the seven students in IC 3 at the time. Four of them were offered jobs with starting pay in the $20 to $25 per-hour range. Soon after, the department hosted recruiters from Skyworks Solutions, a Boston-area company also looking for IC layout candidates.

Last semester, two students from the program were recruited and hired by Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and both were offered annual salaries exceeding $55,000.

A&E CAD Department Chair Doug Smith says hiring is strong in all four areas of A&E CAD for which ACC offers degrees and certificates. He noted that much of the program’s success is due to Adjunct Associate Professor Cong Do, who works tirelessly (in addition to his full-time job as an IC design engineer) to prepare students for these opportunities.

Thanks to Professor Cong Do and Chair Smith for these great student success stories!


Joining me at the New Orleans conference are Tamara Atkinson and Laura Brady from the Capital Area Workforce Solutions; Parc Smith, CEO of American Youthworks, MariBen Ramsey of Austin Community Foundation, and ACC student Maria Valdez

Joining me at the conference were Tamara Atkinson and Laura Brady from Capital Area Workforce Solutions; Parc Smith, CEO of American Youthworks; MariBen Ramsey of Austin Community Foundation; and ACC student Maria Valdez.

Austin Opportunity Youth Collaborative

In early May, I joined members of the Austin Opportunity Youth Collaborative in New Orleans for a gathering of cities participating in the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Incentive initiative.

The Austin Opportunity Youth Collaborative is a consortium of non-profits, businesses, philanthropies, and government agencies — along with young leaders — who are aligning efforts toward the collective goal of reengaging 1 million young people (referred to as “opportunity” youth) who are disconnected from effective education and employment pathways. Austin is the only Texas city to receive an Aspen Institute Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund grant.


ACC student Maria Valdez (center) joined a panel of young leaders who spoke at the conference.

ACC student Maria Valdez is working with the college and Workforce Solutions Capital Area to help out-of-school, out-of-work youth ages 16-24 develop pathways for education and skill development. She joined a panel of young leaders who spoke at the conference about our efforts in Austin.

This summer ACC will partner with the Austin Opportunity Youth Collaborative to offer students in the program the chance to participate in ACC’s Transitions class. “Opportunity” youth taking the daytime section of the course, which helps adult learners become college-ready, can earn up to $1,000 in incentive bonuses if they reach certain benchmarks, including enrolling in ACC in the fall.


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