Astronauts stay fit thanks to San Jacinto alum

Astronauts stay fit aboard the International Space Station thanks to a treadmill designed by a Boeing team led by Craig Tyer. His career started with an associate degree in design drafting from San Jacinto College in Houston.

“I had great teachers that were willing to invest in me,” said Tyer. “Getting an associate degree allowed me to get my foot in the door which then allowed me to demonstrate my value through hard work.”

Because of low gravity on the space station, astronauts need to exercise to keep their muscles from losing muscle and bone strength.

Fighting fire with sound

A student-faculty team from San Jacinto College and the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) are fighting fire with sound waves. The research could be used to extinguish fires on aircraft and during space expeditions.

Acoustic Flame Suppression Mechanics uses sub-woofers to manipulate sound waves.

. . . bass frequencies are tuned through a frequency generator until modified sound waves interact with the fire, displacing the base of the fire and putting it out. “We now have a working model and it has tremendous potential,” commented Nate Wiggins, professor of math and engineering at San Jacinto College.

During a recent demonstration, San Jacinto College and UHCL team members extinguished a candle using nothing but a frequency generator application on a smartphone that was connected to sub-woofers. As the frequency was tuned lower and lower and the bass volume increased, the flame began to tremble, and then to split, and then to lie over to one side. When the sound wave frequency got so low that the speakers began to rattle, the flame separated from the candle wick and went out.

In November, team members will fly aboard NASA’s Zero Gravity aircraft to test their acoustic flame suppression equipment in a weightless environment.

San Jacinto expands Men of Honor

Houston’s San Jacinto College is expanding its Men of Honor program, which provides mentoring, networking and counseling for African-American males.

The college was shocked to learn that only 8 percent of black male students returned for a second semester. Since Men of Honor started four years ago, passing and retention rates have improved for participants.

June 2013-Men of Honor

Aaron Moore earned an associate degree in air conditioning technology. Photo credit: Rob Vanya

Once a gang member “running the streets, using and selling drugs,” Aaron Moore decided in prison to change his life. After his parole, he enrolled at San Jacinto and discovered Men of Honor. “I found mentors, and began to follow their good examples,” he said. “I also shared experiences, hopes, and plans with fellow Men of Honor members. We learned from each others’ experiences, and we would check on each other for accountability.”

Moore hopes to run his own air-conditioning business. He earned an associate degree in air conditioning technology in May and plans to study business at the University of Houston.

Paintball teaches future EMTs ‘care under fire’

Future emergency medical technicians train to provide “care under fire” at a Houston paintball range.  “Mistakes can get you killed,” Ali Shah, a  San Jacinto College Emergency Medical Technology instructor,  told students as a team of experienced EMT students and instructors demonstrated a rescue.

“The team was perfect. No hits during the rescue,” Shah told the debriefing group. “But one member forgot his weapon, and the entire team had to return to the combat zone. When they did, everyone on the team was killed. It shows the importance of paying attention to details.”

Simulating combat with paintball fire teaches “care under fire,” moving patients from danger to a safe area where medics can provide care. Most EMTs won’t go into tactical EMT work, said Cindy Barbee, director of the San Jacinto College North EMT program. “However, there are aspects of care under fire training that apply to any EMT situation – teamwork and communication. Students also learn the importance of quick thinking and putting the needs of a patient first.”

Jarret Hardy hopes to use the training: After earning an associate degree, he plans to enlist in the Air Force. He hopes to serve as a pararescue jumper in the Air Force, then join a firefighter or tactical crew as a medic.  “The training helped to demonstrate who could serve as actual leaders, and how well people work under pressure,” he said.

EMTs train under (paintball) fire

To learn how to provide medical care under fire, San Jacinto College Emergency Medical Technology students crawled on to a simulated barrlefield and dodged paintball pellets while applying torniquets to “wounded comrades.”

 In the scenario, each student tactical team had a designated “wounded” member. Their objective was to move the casualty while under (paintball) fire to a protected area, and then provide medical care for the patient, and finally to move the patient out of the danger zone.

Ali Shah,an EMT instructor at the Houston college and a U.S. Army veteran, said the goal was to provide true-to-life training.  Students had to work together in a high-stress environment.

After the paintball exercise, Edward Hines decided to pursue tactical EMT work. “It’s exciting. I love it.” After earning his EMT degree, he plans to enlist in the Army as a combat medic.

College ‘connects’ remedial students with career paths

Low-level remedial students “have almost zero chance” to succeed in college without guidance and support, says Myrna Gonzalez, a developmental reading and writing instructor at Houston’s San Jacinto College. But the odds are improving. Gonzalez helped start Intentional Connections, which provides mentors to evaluate students’ career interests and academic issues, introduce them to faculty and let them “test drive” different programs.

“For example, if a student says he or she is sort of interested in culinary arts, then we introduce the student to the culinary arts department chair, and the student gets to attend two or three culinary arts classes (not for credit) to see if it will be a good fit. If that does not work out, then the student can test drive another program.”

Charles Powell is studying auto collision repair and improving his reading skills, thanks to Intentional Connections. He plans to earn a certificate and work in a body shop.

Some advocate placing low-level remedial students in Adult Basic Education (ABE), which is part of the K-12 system. Community colleges have expertise in educating adult learners, said Rebecca Goosen, associate vice chancellor for college preparatory programs. “At a college, low-performing developmental students can learn job skills in craft trades, they can get valuable on-the-job training through internships, they can earn occupational certificates, while at the same time they improve in core subjects like math and writing. They may not receive that type of education and training in ABE programs.”

To live up to their potential community colleges should create career pathways for remedial students, writes Mandy Zatynski on The Quick and the Ed.

Lake Area Technical Institute in South Dakota, a two-time finalist for the prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, identifies different sets of readiness requirements for each of its programs, which has “virtually eliminated the necessity for remedial education.”

Lake Area Technical Institute touts a 76 percent completion rate, double the national average.

From EMT student to medical director

Mark Escott trained to be an emergency medical technician at San Jacinto College in Houston in 1993. Now Dr. Escott is back on campus as medical director of the North Campus’ Emergency Medical Technology (EMT) program.

After EMT training, Escott earned a religious studies degree at Rice, a master’s in public health from the University of Texas and a MD from Flinders University. He’s worked as an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Penn State and Baylor.

“I think that it’s important to recognize your roots and where you come from,” he remarked. “I also think it’s also important to give back to institutions that have given me something so important. I learned some valuable lessons as an EMT student at San Jac, some that I will never forget.”

Escott tells students that emergency medicine requires leadership skills and teamwork. “Keep your head down, nose in the books, study, study, study,” he says. “I promise it will all pay off in the end.”

On time or not at all

Ending late registration will improve success rates, predict officials at San Jacinto College in Texas. But it will cut tuition revenue and state funding. Failure rates are significantly higher for students who enroll late, notes Inside Higher Ed.

“When you’re funded based on the twelfth day of class, it encourages you to drive enrollment and just keep trying to focus on enrollment,” said Brenda Hellyer, San Jacinto chancellor. “But you’ve just got to go with your values. And one of our values is student success. We know we’re going to see results from this.”

Last fall, San Jacinto didn’t allow late registration for remedial courses.  Enrollment grew by 1 percent compared to a 7.5 percent increase for other courses.

Some would-be late registrants enrolled in the college’s “Take 2″ courses, compressed courses on 12-week schedules that start later in the semester.

This fall, no late registration will be allowed. That could affect hundreds of students.

The Texas Association of Community Colleges is lobbying for additional funding to reward community colleges that improve completion rates, instead of funding based solely on enrollment.

South Texas College abolished late registration in 2005. Enrollment declined by 3 percent, but some students would-be late registrants enrolled in “mini-mesters,” 12-week courses that start a few weeks into the semester.

Enrollment rebounded in subsequent years and completion rates have improved.