Miami-Dade Community College: Creating Employees for the 21st Century

To find skilled workers for the 21st century’s emerging disciplines like computer animation, American industry is looking to Miami-Dade Community College and its newest work of art—the Emerging Technologies Center of the Americas (ETCOTA)—to equip the next generation of talent with the necessary high-tech skills and training.

ETCOTA is a 40,000 square-foot facility linked by fiber optical cable. It offers students the advantage of instruction in 19 fully networked classrooms and a 120-seat auditorium. The building’s architectural design was done by The Corradino Group with Digital Video Systems applying its A/V expertise. In each of these rooms, the center has employed and standardized on Sony’s state-of-the-art audio/video solutions.

Integrated Approach to Learning
Sony’s VPL-FX50 SuperSmart projectors are integral to the advanced classroom technology. Instructors can use the touch-screen panel to initiate the projector to display desired multimedia, including material accessed remotely via the Internet, on local servers, or from the college’s extensive video libraries, on a 100-inch screen. For distance learning, Sony EVI-D100 robotic video cameras are used to capture, as well as record to a VTR.

“ETCOTA is one of the world’s premier technology centers,” says Jonathan Sussman, the center’s director of industry relations. “Institutions and academics from across the country and around the world—including China, Italy, and Spain—have come here to observe our architectural design, sophisticated technology, and curricular standards so that they can emulate our fully integrated approach to learning.”

Created as a partnership to meet the ever-increasing demand for highly skilled information technology workers, ETCOTA was funded in part with a $7.9 million grant from the state of Florida, Sussman explains. Classes began this past June, serving more than 1,000 students in the first semester. The college anticipates training 10,000 students annually, graduating the first class in December.

“Miami-Dade Community College has been providing exceptional training in the IT field, helping to meet our community’s education and economic development goals,” says Miami-Dade president Eduardo Padron. “ETCOTA has expanded our capability to help train the thousands of new workers needed for technology jobs, and we have been working with leaders of electronic commerce to help make South Florida the technology capital of the Americas.”

The scale of this achievement is in keeping with Miami-Dade Community College’s status as the largest college in the United States. The six campuses serve more than 160,000 students who reflect the diverse multi-ethnic, multi-national cultural mix that is South Florida. For all the diversity that defines this cosmopolitan landscape, technology is the common denominator for the future.
Sussman says that Miami-Dade Community College has become an essential part of the business community by implementing new academic programs to meet the needs of industry. Its technology standards allow the freedom to plan and adapt for the future as needed.

Job Skills for the Future
Miami-based Accord Video and sister company Motion Image Communications are always on the lookout for the next generation of talent. There is a great need for computer animation artists who are proficient using the Maya Graphics workstation, a system that creates full-motion video characters.

“Maya production is a skill that is in high demand in South Florida,” explains Michael Justice, facility director for Motion Image Communications. “We have a complete Maya workstation, but we outsource our Maya work because we have never been able to find the right artist for our shop.”
Alain Miranda, who is studying for an A.A. degree in computer art animation, is already working with the Maya workstation.

Miranda appreciates how visual teaching tools are especially important to his interests and will give him the skills needed to work in his chosen field. With the IP-addressability of Sony’s SuperSmart projectors, instructors have instantaneous access to a wealth of media assets available on servers throughout the college, including some 10,000 video presentations, via the Ethernet. They can also project completed work done on their laptops or from a student’s computer, using the touch-panel control system.

“By having the latest technology at our disposal, we get a direct experience with the material,” says Miranda. “Taking the tutorials and demonstrations off the computer and projecting them allows us to go step-by-step through the process. That takes us from getting just a sense of what it is about, to having complete, practical knowledge.”

If Miranda can’t attend the class, he can elect to watch the session online. Sony’s EVI-D100 robotic video cameras are installed in ETCOTA’s 19 classrooms and in the auditorium. Advanced robotic features allow the instructor to control the camera using the built-in pan/tilt/
zoom capabilities.

Greater Flexibility for Instructors
For Giselle Siu, associate professor senior, School of Technology and Engineering, teaching in a networked classroom offers tremendous advantages.

“Preparing my examples before class and putting them on the network drive for easy access is a far more efficient way to work,” explains Siu. “Before, I spent a lot of time writing on the board or typing out information and making copies. All that effort writing, erasing, and writing again is now better invested in the classroom. It’s also enhanced my teaching incredibly because I can put more thought into prep work.”

Teaching faculty like Siu believe that students will leave Miami-Dade Community College fully prepared to join the 21st century workforce thanks to the skills they acquire through the latest technology at ETCOTA.

Jonathan Sussman (jsussman@mdc.edu) is the director of School of Technology and Engineering at ETCOTA, and Giselle Siu (gsiu@mdc.edu) is an associate professor senior at the School of Technology and
Engineering.

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