Diagram of STEM Pathways

Technology, Engineering, and Computer Information Systems Pathways at Central Arizona College

Written by: Dr. Armineh Noravian, CAC Adjunct Professor and Ms. Carrie McIntyre, Student Services Generalist

The technology, engineering, and computer information systems pathways at Central Arizona College (CAC) are developed to serve the students and the needs of the community and businesses in Pinal County and beyond. The goal in designing these pathways was to provide students a flexible and equitable approach to obtaining skills and knowledge that will help them attain their education goals. The flexibility of the pathways is reflected in the various entry and exit points into and out of the technology, engineering, and information systems programs. The equity aspect lies in providing students awareness of possible futures, which they may not have thought about, and the opportunity of low risk exploration.

Students in Pinal County high schools interested in learning skills and obtaining certificates or associate’s degrees in advanced technology education can take various technology related curriculum offered at CAC. The curriculum in these fields have been carefully crafted through input from industry in the county to ensure that students obtain skills and knowledge that will meet the needs of the employers in the county.

Students within the technology area, however, will also have an opportunity to explore the possibility of entering an engineering transfer program or a computer information systems program where they can obtain certificates, associate’s degrees, or transfer. This means that technology students, with a minimum of risk, can test their ambitions and decide whether an engineering transfer program or a computer information systems program could be a better alternative for them. Similarly, students who enter engineering from high school, but find it unsatisfactory, can easily switch to the myriad of offerings in the advanced technologies or computer information systems.

With CIS Network Administration, Cyber-Operations and Informatics, students have a transfer path to UA South, which they can complete without leaving Pinal County. An instructor from UA South provides face-to-face instruction at CAC while another part of the program is covered with online classes.

Although technology and the computer information systems are established programs at CAC, engineering is new. The engineering transfer degree uses a guided pathways approach and provides students the opportunity to complete almost two years of their four-year engineering degree at CAC. All the courses taken in the engineering pathway at CAC will be 100% transferrable to ASU and NAU. All but one course is currently transferrable to UA. This means a significant tuition savings for students and their families, which makes the engineering degree financially more accessible to many students in Pinal and nearby counties.

Besides the various mathematics, science, and computer information systems courses needed for the first two years of engineering, the new engineering curriculum has a redesigned Introduction to Engineering (EGR102) course, and two new courses that are being offered in 2018. The EGR 102 course redesign provides a heavily project-based approach that integrates engineering and advanced technologies. This means that students will be able to practice the engineering design process by working with instructors in engineering and technology on various projects in diverse technical fields. This approach will expose students to both well-structured and real-world projects, broaden their perspective about engineering and technologies, help them identify areas of academic interest, and provide them a broader perspective and awareness of the vast possibilities in engineering and technology education at CAC. The new 2018 engineering course offerings at CAC also include two new engineering courses that are transferrable to Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University: (1) Digital Design – EGR120, which is a required course for electrical, software and computer engineering and computer science students; and (2) Circuits I – EGR222, a course which students in aerospace, civil, mechanical, biomedical, electrical, software and computer engineering are required to take.

In summary, the technology, engineering, and information systems pathways at CAC provide students a number of entry and exit points that lead to certificates, associate degrees, or transfer to four-year institutions, all within Pinal County. The quality and diversity of offerings in these technical pathways make it possible for employers to find a broad range of local talent within the county; it is also likely to make it attractive for new businesses to move to Pinal County.