South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) is preparing students for multidisciplinary careers in the design and drafting field with their newly remodeled Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) Technology program. The program teaches students multiple stages of the design process from creating computer-aided three-dimensional designs to how real-life objects are made from those designs. The AEC Technology program prepares students for a myriad of careers in the engineering, architecture and construction fields and was updated to closely match the skills needed for careers in the design and drafting industry.

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Professor Ting Song instructs an AEC Technology student during a computer drafting class. Photo credit: Shanna Paxton Photography

The program fully launched Fall Quarter of 2018, replacing SPSCC’s former Computer Aided Design and Building Information Modeling (CAD/BIM) program. Although elements of the CAD/BIM are still implemented throughout AEC Technology, the new program includes instruction on more modern technologies and practices in the design field.

The decision to remodel SPSCC’s CAD/BIM program came after a review process by the school with the remodel including input from industry professionals. “We actually started about two years ago,” says Professor of Architecture, Engineering, and Construction, Mike Murphy. “We started with a visioning event in Seattle. We went to the University of Washington. The faculty, with some of the administrators asked about 50 representatives of our industry, employers, workers, engineers, architects, and teachers to come spend the day with us and help us define who we are and what we should teach. So, we gathered all of that information, came back and began our process of redefining ourselves as a program.”

SPSCC AEC Technology Program Graduates Business Cards
Professor Mike Murphy collects and proudly displays business cards from his graduated students who have gone on to pursue careers in the design and drafting field. Photo credit: Molly Walsh

A key component of the program remodel was to closer align the curriculum to real industry practices. “I would say the most profound difference between the old program and the new is the commitment and the movement in the industry to go from two-dimensional drafting to three-dimensional modeling,” says Murphy. “Drafting has been around, with T-squares, pencils, and triangles. Maybe you had a high school class where you were drawing things with pencils. Then it transitioned into CAD, which is doing that drawing with a computer. Now, we are transitioning into modeling.”

The emphasis on modeling within the AEC Technology program is important because that is what is being used by professionals in the architecture and engineering industries. Models go a step beyond initial drawings by providing a more comprehensive view of design specifications and models are more interactive. “We are taking buildings, Boeing airplanes, anything you see around you in the environment and they are being modeled into a three-dimensional model,” he adds. “You can walk through the design, view it from different angles. You can cut it, dice it. You have a much more effective tool that allows you to access more information within the model, thus making it more effective for the owner of the project and designers. You can live in the space before it’s built. We are trying to show that we recognize that as a program and devote more of our energy and our resources to three-dimensional modeling.”

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Students in the AEC Technology Program learn various aspects of design for applications in the construction, engineering and architectural fields. Photo credit: Shanna Paxton Photography

Three-dimensional modeling is an important application for many industries, including both governmental agencies and private companies. This type of drafting is commonly used in industries like aviation, manufacturing and architecture. Not only is there a need for three-dimensional design in general, but particularly in the South Sound region. “When you look at the community, at state level jobs, county level jobs, city level jobs and private industry, SPSCC has representatives clear across the South Sound area,” says Murphy. “People have come out of this program and used their skills to start a new career.”

A love of computers, creativity and a fast-paced work environment are considerations for any prospective student. “It’s challenging and it’s never the same,” says Murphy. “You have to be a life-long learner. If you enjoy the process of working with computers while trying to keep up with the technology that moves quickly. If you like to work with people. If you like to communicate, both verbally and written. If you like those things and you like opportunities of a wide variety, then what we can teach you here is the language of how to talk with a computer, how to draw with a computer.”

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The AEC program will be housed in the newly remodeled Lacy Building 3, with anticipated move Fall 2019. Photo courtesy: South Puget Sound Community College

Murphy, who has been an instructor at SPSCC since 1986, is excited for the new program and what it can teach students. As a professor of computer-aided drafting, Murphy has seen the many changes to the design program over the years and sees the rippling effect education has for his students. “The best part of this job is seeing the impact that you have on people’s lives with education,” says Murphy. “I’ve seen lots of people come through here with lots of life stories and I have seen this college, not just this program, but this college, turn lives around and improve the quality of life for families.”

The AEC program will be moving to the Lacey campus Fall 2019. It will be co-located with the Advanced Manufacturing Program in Lacey Building 3, which has been under remodel and upgrades this year. To learn more about the AEC Technology Program, visit the South Puget Sound Community College website.

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