ARC Design Hub and Design Technology Pathway
There’s one essential career skill that you’ll never learn at American River College’s state-of-the-art Design Hub: commuting.
That’s because the one-of-a-kind center for innovation, internships and more is located right on the ARC campus, saving fuel and easing frustration for time-strapped students looking for hands-on experience in industrial design.
“That’s important [because] we have a lot of students that can’t afford to do an internship,” says Professor of Design Technology Randall Schuster, who regards the Hub as “an internship factory” on the Sacramento campus.
“Because they don’t have a car, or they’re taking care of their kids, or whatever … we saw the whole internship thing as … an equity issue.”
Thanks to this crown jewel of a collaborative space, the Design and Engineering Technology program at American River College is blazing a first-of-its-kind trail for students aiming to make things happen in the versatile industry. The Hub offers the opportunity to participate in on-site internships, both paid and unpaid, bolstered by ARC’s full resources and support.
With the innovative idea to keep these internships on campus, the Design Hub tackles the equity issue head-on. Take ARC graduate Matt Crow, who worked as an intern in the Design Hub in 2019. Between his classes and additional coursework, Crow says the internship helped him find a balance between college and gaining hands-on experience essential for his field.
“The ARC Design Hub allowed me to accelerate my professional development without adding any significant stress on top of my class load,” expresses Crow. “This gave me the time to make mistakes and learn earlier than I would have if I’d only gotten an internship in my later college years.”
ARC began development on the Design Hub after the Design and Engineering program received grant funding to spearhead a Makerspace on campus. The idea to include internships marked a unique approach, one that Schuster believes helped keep the overall project alive.
“Everybody liked what we were doing, and so when that money stopped, Strong Workforce took over,” states Schuster, referring to the Strong Workforce Program funding now supporting the Design Hub.
The Hub’s internships focus directly on projects relevant to the ARC campus. This setup encourages interns to collaborate with various programs, including design technology, computer programming, the arts, engineering, and more, to identify and execute ideas.
“We focused on projects that had at least two or three different disciplines, so that the interns had to work together,” notes Schuster.
Interns work and report weekly with industry-experienced faculty mentors, who assess their progress and goals as they work toward outlined deliverables. After one semester, students receive a performance review, which determines whether they can participate in a paid internship position the following semester.
“As an intern in the ARC Design Hub, I applied what I learned in my ARC classes to real-world projects used by the ARC faculty,” boasts Crow.
Crow’s contributions spanned a number of notable projects, including the design of a prototype of the ARC Wayfinding system. He also lent his programming skills to the improvement of the Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) Linguistics Analysis Tool on the ARC website.
“My key contribution to that project was reducing the load time for one report from over three minutes to less than a minute,” reflects Crow. “Not the most exciting thing to be credited for, but it was a fun technical challenge.”
Other projects within the internship involved web applications, workplace productivity tools, and even a workflow for converting drone data into a replica of the California Aerospace Museum in Minecraft.
Says Crow: “Throughout all of my projects, I learned to apply the ARC Design Hub quality management system to convey the value of my work to stakeholders.”
The quality management protocol is an ISO 9000-like system which follows similar standards to ensure that the program aligns with the Design Hub’s strategic direction.
“We introduced [the system] so that our interns really got training to go above and beyond,” says Schuster. “We focus on collaborative projects so that students have to work with each other, and we require that they do a quality system along with it.”
The quality management system is unique to ARC, and in Schuster’s opinion, the thing that truly makes the program stand out. It’s an aspect that “most places haven’t integrated well,” according to the professor.
Veronica Torres, Design Hub Coordinator at American River College, agrees. She helped develop the quality management system governing the internships and sees it as a way for grads to set themselves apart in their career search.
“With our industry experience, we know those standards that go in industry and in companies,” explains Torres. “So we try to tailor it in a very brief way to be following those standards and keeping up with the standards with the industry and with the work experience.”
And by confining the Design Hub internship program primarily to the ARC campus, faculty are always close by to help monitor these standards, provide feedback, and work through any problems that arise.
“We’re letting them know ‘you missed too many days,’ or, ‘you’re not submitting your work documentation properly,” says Torres. “It’s just all those little things that we’re hoping they learn and pick up those skills so that when they go out into the workforce, they’re very successful.”
With the game-changing resource behind them, Design and Engineering students are continuing on to succeed at the next level. Even after completing his associate degree and certificate in Computer Programming, Crow continued to participate as a student programmer in the Design Hub for the next two years. Recently, the determined programmer completed his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Cal State, Sacramento – an accomplishment he believes was seeded at ARC’s Design Hub.
“It gave me the space to grow quickly and confidently,” reflects Crow.
With his education complete, Crow is living out his success story as an Information Technology Assistant for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. It’s an increasingly common arc for ARC students exposed to the Design Hub.
“We have one student with a 4.5 GPA at Cal Tech … We’ve got drone operators, we have people working for 3D print material science places, we’ve got programmers,” notes the proud professor. “They get the credit, but we were part of their journey.”