Student technology ambassadors get lesson in international collaboration
Students at Valencia College in Orlando run a computer repair center that not only services all types of electronic devices but also refurbishes outdated computers to distribute on campus.
The Technology Ambassador program began in 2017, when a group of students approached two professors at the college and asked how they could get some hands-on experience in computer repair. The professors set up the repair shop where up to 10 students volunteer each semester, fixing devices for any member of the college community for free.
Most of the 40 students who have worked in the repair shop were offered jobs after graduating with associate degrees, says Jerry Hensel, a professor of computer programming at Valencia. “The technicians are able to get entry-level jobs in computer repair because they get this work experience.”
After launching the repair center, the student technicians began revamping computers the college was planning to discard after a three-year lifecycle. The refurbished computers are then offered to students through the Louise Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, a federal program aimed at increasing the number of underrepresented students completing STEM degrees.
Beyond working in the repair shop, students can take a Technology Ambassador course, which trains them to become managers of a computer service center. Developing this course allowed the college to internationalize its information technology program by partnering with universities abroad.
Last fall, for example, the students at Valencia worked on an artificial intelligence project with students at the Federal University of Pampa in Brazil. Both groups of students programmed a robot to follow a designated course physically located in Orlando, but which the students in Brazil could manipulate online.
Internationalizing its information technology program has been a goal at the college because it will help students learn how to adapt to today’s global workplace, says Heith Hennel, a professor of information technology at Valencia. “Living here in Orlando, we had over 75 million visitors last year, and many of them are international,” Hennel says.
Many companies in the area, such as Disney World, operate globally and need technical expertise to connect their locations around the world. Hennel says, “If you’re looking at just the international flow from Disneyland Paris to Orlando, they need to make sure that these systems are synced for security using the same language.”
Heith Hennel and Jerry Hensel, professors of information technology at Valencia College in Orlando, will present a UB Tech 2020® session titled “How to Create an International Technology Ambassador Program” on June 17.
Editor’s note: The Technology Ambassador program is currently suspended while Valencia College’s campus is closed due to the coronavirus.