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By Jamie Cargo

Leaving high school for college can feel as scary as entering the haunted house down the street. But don’t worry, Saddleback College is here to illuminate the path to your success.

Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) and Saddleback Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) high school students can start by taking Counseling 100 for free in the spring. Saddleback College brings professional counseling expertise to the high schools, where students can learn about concurrent and dual enrollment opportunities. The college plans to expand its concurrent enrollment soon by offering a variety of college courses at each area high school.

The class of 2018 can also get in on the Freshman Advantage program, designed for new incoming freshman of any age who will be attending Saddleback College in Fall 2018. Eligible students can enroll in classes before the majority of continuing students.

Counseling 100 and Freshman Advantage help students receive priority registration and get the classes they need to hit the ground running during their first semester in college.

Maybe you haven’t found a career you love yet. At Saddleback, you can choose from over 300 associate degrees, certificates and occupational skills awards in 190 program areas taught by a faculty renowned for its expertise, experience and commitment to student success.

Give back as you learn

Guest Speaker Janet Yergler, a quadruple amputee, shared her recovery experience using prosthetic with students, faculty and staff at Saddleback College and emphasized the importance of the students’ work on the project. Photo: Katlin Choi
Guest Speaker Janet Yergler, a quadruple amputee, shared her recovery experience using prosthetic with students, faculty and staff at Saddleback College and emphasized the importance of the students’ work on the project. Photo: Katlin Choi

Over the summer, students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) began creating upper limb assistive devices for those in need through the e-NABLE hand project, a group of volunteers from across the globe that use 3D printers to create free prosthetics.

The Saddleback College team recently advanced to creating its own design by integrating Arduino Uno technology with a sensor that detects electrical activity of muscles to control robotic hand movements of the device. Using the 3D printers in the Advanced Manufacturing Lab and Solidworks, a 3D CAD design software, students engage in group projects led by engineers from San Clemente’s Swift Engineering Inc., and faculty and staff from Saddleback College. Students get real world experience involving physics, engineering, manufacturing, mathematics and computer science, which will help them explore potential majors and careers.

“The students are learning as much from each other as they are from us,” said Katlin Choi, the grant project manager. “They learn project management aspects such as how to brainstorm and make decisions as a team and how to take a lead role for a particular project component as well as the content of the project such as the Arduino Uno programming and the 3D design of a device stand.”

Mechanical engineering major Chris McDonald found the project challenging and fulfilling.

“I’m surprised by the complexity of this project and the fact that it’s almost impossible to replicate the natural hand,” he said. “Being able to apply the knowledge I’ve learned in a way that helps out someone else is very rewarding. I want to make an impact in this world and even doing a small project like this is one step closer to doing that.”

Bryce Martin, a second-year mechanical engineering major, discovered a career path, saying, “I found through helping in the project that I want to pursue an internship next summer with a company that designs and manufactures prosthetics.”

The students in turn inspire the faculty.

“It is wonderful to see students from all walks of life and different majors come together on a project to serve a very real need in the community,” Choi said.

Larry Perez, chair of the Computer Science Department, said, “I’m very excited to be part of this project working alongside our students promoting (STEM) awareness in the spirit of the maker movement.”

Your brain is the best tool


The Automotive Technology Program is evolving beyond using just a wrench and screwdriver to meet drivers’ needs. Students who are good at analyzing problems and finding solutions will do well in this industry. From regenerative braking on hybrid vehicles to the electric motors that move the driver’s seat forward, how quickly a mechanic can assess the issue determines their success.

“Everyone will use a car or some other form of motorized transportation,” said Rajanpal Dhillon, the department’s senior lab technician. “This is not a dying industry. It will continue to grow.”

The department recently purchased new equipment for students to learn how to perform maintenance on newer models. It also keeps and upgrades its older equipment to prepare students in case they find a job at a mom and pop mechanic shop.

“Our students are trained on various machines so they won’t be fazed by technology or a lack thereof,” Dhillon said.

Back in 1970, you could fill a 10-square-foot room with all of GM’s manuals, Dhillon explained. Today, you would need at least 50,000 square feet. “Now we have fuel injectors, computers instead of carburetors, electronically controlled suspension instead of mechanical springs, and companies like BMW, Volvo and VW are committing to stop producing gasoline vehicles.”

In response, the Automotive Technology Department is looking forward by offering classes focused around alternative fuel.

Students can also use their automotive technology knowledge to branch out into areas such as service writing, sales and insurance claims. There’s also a great need for automotive instructors to teach the next generation, an issue the Teach Prep Pipeline is working to fix by recruiting experienced technicians.

All five program certificate options—Automotive Chassis Specialist, Automotive Engine Service Specialist, Automotive Engine Performance Specialist, General Automotive Technician and Alternative Fuel Vehicle Specialist—are available as an associate degree.

“You can go anywhere in the world and you can find a job if you know how to fix cars,” Dhillon said. “There’s always someone looking to get their car fixed. The question is how hard are you willing to work?”

Jobs related to the e-NABLE project (Title, median salary):

  • Mechanical Engineer: $84,190
  • Manufacturing Engineering Technologist: $62,330
  • Electrical Engineer: $94,210
  • Prosthetist: $65,630
  • Medical Appliance Technicians: $35,980
  • Robotics Technician: $55,610
  • Computer Programmer: $79,840
  • Computer Aided Design (CAD) Designer/Operator: $54,480

Data is taken from O*NET OnLine, U.S. Department of Labor.

Jamie Cargo. Photo: Courtesy
Jamie Cargo. Photo: Courtesy

Jamie Cargo serves as the public information officer at Saddleback College, which provides dynamic, innovative and student-centered post-secondary education and training to the greater South Orange County community. For more information, please visit 

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