Instructional Support Technician Key for Engineering Students
By Eric Breier
Marco Jacome had been working at Cal State San Marcos for a few months when he finally got to move into the recently completed Viasat Engineering Pavilion in December 2019.
An instructional support technician for the engineering program, Jacome was able to set up all of his equipment and have the new space ready for students returning to campus for the spring 2020 semester.
Jacome was in the new space for less than four months when the pandemic hit. And it wasn’t long before he was moving all of his equipment back out to make way for a county-operated COVID-19 testing center at the Viasat Engineering Pavilion.
But Jacome stayed busy during that time, and one of the projects he assisted with to help students work remotely proved so successful that it is becoming a staple of the electrical engineering program even as students return to campus.
“When the pandemic happened, in less than a month we changed our electrical engineering laboratories to remote offering,” electrical engineering professor Reza Kamali said. “To achieve the objectives and outcomes of our courses without any interruption, we put together a package of portable devices and components. Marco was a key person to help me pack the selected tools and components and deliver it to our students.”
Kamali said logistics were particularly difficult during the first month of the pandemic, and Jacome was integral in overcoming those challenges.
Jacome said he and Janine Smock, an instructional support technician for physics, helped package kits that included everything students needed to complete assignments from home while instruction was occurring virtually.
“We didn’t have any interruption of hands-on practices,” Kamali said.
The equipment students received included an Analog Discovery 2, which has an oscilloscope, a wave generator, a power supply and a voltmeter; an analog parts kit, which has all of the components needed to complete labs; a BNC adapter, which is used to connect oscilloscope probes and signal cables; and a multimeter.
“Even though students were on their own, they were still able to practice the mechanics of translating a schematic diagram to actual circuit boards and conducting basic measurements,” said Jacome, who graduated from San Diego State with a bachelor’s in engineering in 2017. “It’s like a full-on lab within a small little device.”
Jacome also created lab instruction videos, which were uploaded to YouTube, to help students better visualize lab practices, learn how to use the equipment remotely and successfully complete their assignments. It was a new experience for Jacome, who had never before produced an instructional video.
“I didn't write a script or anything,” Jacome said. “I was just going off the top of my head, but trying to speak clearly, pronounce my words well, just making sure I had good vocal skills. Once you're on camera, it's a little bit more difficult as opposed to just explaining it to someone in person.”
Although many students have returned to in-person learning this fall, the at-home kits proved so successful that they remain part of the engineering program. The kits are being used to help students taking “EE 100: Introduction to Electrical Engineering” get accustomed to the type of equipment they’ll eventually be using for more advanced courses.
Kamali, who was CSUSM’s lone electrical engineering faculty member at the peak of the pandemic, said Jacome’s work was essential in providing students technical instruction.
“With his help, we were able to improve our retention and enrollment even during the pandemic,” Kamali said.
Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist
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