Monthly Archives: January 2018

Durham Tech to partner with NASA for second consecutive year

Durham Technical Community College was notified last week of its approval to participate in the NASA High Altitude Student Platform – or HASP project – for a second consecutive year.

In partnership with the NASA Balloon Program Office and the Louisiana Space Consortium, the program is designed to foster excitement in aerospace careers and boost student excitement in the industry. HASP will launch 12 student payloads via a platform using an 11.8 million cubic foot high altitude balloon. The massive 2,000 pound platform will include projects from 11 other schools around the country and will ascend to an altitude of more than 22 miles.

A group of 10 current and former Durham Tech students – The Unacceptable Risks – submitted a 60-page application to be one of 12 schools participating in the launch, which will take place Fall 2018 at NASA’s Columbia Scientific Ballooning Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

“We felt like we put in our best effort on the application, but we knew it was going to be very competitive,” said Julie Hoover, Geology Instructor and Coordinator of Engineering at Durham Tech. “I was stunned when we were accepted with no revisions. I think this vote of confidence really speaks volumes about how much the team learned from the project last year. I’m so proud of them.”

Durham Tech’s payload, Robotic Arm Manipulation and Materials Matching (RAM3), is a robotic arm that will mimic the tasks used to service legacy satellites. RAM3 will be one of four large payloads on the platform that carry the most in weight, size and power. The robotic arm will have a camera that uses computer vision to complete simple tasks like pressing buttons and flipping switches. Students are currently creating 3D printed prototypes, building the frame, and researching robotic kinematics, computer vision and edge detection.

“Students are using everything that they’ve learned in their math and science classes,” Hoover said. “The work that they’ve put into their education at Durham Tech is being tested and they are exceeding expectations. The fact that students are graduating, going on to four year institutions, and choosing to stick around and work with us is a phenomenal testimonial to the academic community that we have here.”

Last year, Durham Tech’s contribution to the platform was the Greenhouse, Ozone and Atmospheric Trace Gas – or G.O.A.T. – project, which collected sulfur dioxide and atmospheric gas in the stratosphere. The platform was successfully launched on Labor Day.

Durham Tech students embrace Nicaraguan New Year, explore health care

Group photo of students at coffee farm, holding red coffee beans. As the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, 15 students from Durham Technical Community College took a step back from a cracking bonfire in Nicaragua as “Año Viejo,” a large handmade doll stuffed with firecrackers, was thrown into the fire to represent the shedding of negativity from the past year.

“We waited with anticipation for the gunpowder to go off. It could not have been more perfect,” said Viviana Reyna, 19. “Everything was incredibly breathtaking and wonderful. My favorite part was the bonfire because it was a beautiful time to be involved in Nicaraguan tradition.”

It was second night of Durham Tech’s Comparative Health and Cultural Travel Program in Nicaragua and it set the tone for what has been described as a life-changing experience.

One day earlier, Durham Tech students and one faculty member boarded a flight to explore the similarities and differences between health care in Nicaragua and health care in the United States.

In partnership with Sister Communities of San Ramon, a nonprofit ecotourism organization in Durham, students were led through the country with an itinerary that ranged from working on a coffee farm and making corn tortillas to visiting a live volcano and children’s hospitals.

“I found it especially rewarding that Sister Communities of San Ramon planned the entire experience around the learning outcomes we built as educators,” said Stephanie Dawson, faculty sponsor and Durham Tech instructor. “There was a great balance of experiences that focused on learning about Nicaraguan health care as well as cultural immersion and touristy fun.”

For most of their stay, students were divided into groups of three and placed with host families to gain firsthand experience of “Nica” life, as the locals call it.

“The most impactful part of our travels was having the opportunity to live with a Nicaraguan host family,” Dawson said. “Students spent four days and nights living with their new families, sharing living areas, eating meals with them, and learning about the warmth and generosity of their culture.”

Students raved about this opportunity.

“I loved living with another family. They were so kind to us,” said Mi Joi White, 20. “You’re knee deep in the experience when you live with a host family.”

“My host family was the most meaningful part of the entire experience,” said Angel Askew, 27. “I was able to live like I was a Nicaraguan. They cooked for us and washed our clothes. They made us feel like we were really a part of their family.”

The first of three stops was an hour drive to historic Granada, where the group enjoyed leisure activities like hiking, shopping, sunset boat tours, pottery lessons, and yoga classes overlooking the mountains.

“This was my first time out of the country and it was so beautiful,” said Angel Askew, 27. “I felt like I was in a painting.”

The next stop was a three hour drive north to Finca Esperanza Verde, an organic coffee farm retreat, where they had the rare opportunity to pick coffee beans that are later roasted at Counter Culture in Durham. The beans are sold by Sister Communities of San Ramon to support sustainable farm workers and directly benefit residents of Nicaragua.

“The coffee farm was a great experience. I really enjoyed picking the beans as a group,” Reyna said. “We learned how they separated the good from the bad, peeled the skin, and prepared them to go to the mill. We took turns grinding the beans. I can truly say it was the best coffee ever.”

Photo of Viviana holding a Nicaraguan child. From Esperanza Verde they drove a half hour west to their final destination of San Ramon, where they explored health care. The Nicaraguan government guarantees free universal health care for its residents, the biggest contrast to the US, but it is limited in quality and accessibility.

Reyna was moved by the students’ visit to Los Pipitos Center for Children with Disabilities.

“There was a young girl with cerebral palsy that had to be carried everywhere by her parents because there was not enough money to provide her a wheelchair,” Reyna said. “I could not help but think about how simple it is to get a wheelchair in the US. It touched us deeply to see how happy these kids were despite how many needs they had.”

Students later visited La Casa Materna, a short-term residence for high-risk pregnant women, and Santa Fe Clinic, a public health center, before going to Casa del Niño to make natural medicinal products from local plants.

Several students expressed this exploration of Nicaraguan health care validated their career goals.

“Visiting Los Pipitos, La Casa Materna, and Santa Fe reaffirmed my desire to do pediatrics,” Reyna said. “Talking to the children and learning all of the different areas in the hospital there are for pediatrics made me realize how much I loved working to improve the quality of life for children.”

Askew’s desire to pursue nursing also was solidified.

“It made me realize that I’m in the right field because it’s my passion to help people,” Askew said. “Just seeing the children made me want to help people even more.”

Students reported having a new appreciation for other cultures and understand the importance of traveling abroad.

“Traveling abroad really opens your horizon,” White said. “It’s amazing that Durham Tech gives students an opportunity to travel the world.”

The next travel abroad opportunity is July 17-31 to French Canada. Durham Tech students who are interested in this opportunity are welcome to contact Heidi White, Director of International Student Services and Study Abroad in the Center for the Global Learner, at or 919-536-7200 x4052 for more information.

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Durham Tech, Orange County form life-changing partnership

April Joyce and Mary Moore talk about her preparation for the social studies portion of the High School Equivalency test in Durham Tech’s Orange County Campus Library.

April Joyce rolled her mouse over to the start button for the social studies portion of the High School Equivalency practice test.

It was a Tuesday afternoon in October and the library inside the Durham Technical Community College Orange County Campus buzzed with mid-semester energy.

Just before starting her next session, Joyce looked up to see a familiar face – Mary Moore, the new Education Navigator for Durham Tech and Orange County Department of Social Services.

“Which section are you on,” Moore asked. “How do you feel?”

Joyce, 21, is a single mom working in the fast food industry. She is among 153 clients that Orange County DSS referred to Moore for help. As an Education Navigator, Moore connects DSS clients to resources at the College for assistance.

“We’re helping clients heal their future. They may have had barriers or challenges in the past and they may not have had the successes other people had,” Moore said. “I’m becoming their mentor and their success coach. I’m very passionate and committed to it.”

In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services partnered with state-level social services and community college systems to roll out a new program component to Food Nutrition Services called Education and Training, or FNS E&T. The North Carolina Community College System chose Durham Tech and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College as the first two schools to implement this grant-funded, pilot program.

“I really feel like we’re helping making generational changes,” Moore said. “The Education Navigators are social justice advocates that are using education and training as a way to alleviate poverty.”

The objective is to connect DSS clients to the resources they need to earn a sustainable income.

“We focus on stackable credentials,” Moore said. “If you have a high school diploma, your stackable credential might start with becoming a certified nursing assistant. Your next (credential) might be phlebotomy and central sterile processing. We look at how each one of these will increase their pay and promotional opportunities.”

While Durham Tech provides FNS E&T clients with education and training, Orange County DSS provides assistance in other areas. Clients are eligible for mileage reimbursement to class, child care vouchers, housing assistance, tuition assistance, bus passes, uniforms and emergency assistance. They also provide referrals to Dress for Success so clients can receive professional clothes for job interviews.

“It’s really helping the person holistically,” Moore said. “I work with the case managers if the students are having problems in class or getting into classes. We work together to lift that person up. This pilot project has given us a way to say ‘there’s an opportunity to collaborate at Durham Tech and use DSS resources to help more communities.’ ”

The pilot program saw significant success in its first year. The grant was extended another two years and will be rolled out to 10 more North Carolina community colleges starting this month.

Stories of Moore’s clients range from a young woman who transitioned from a school bus driver to a central sterile processing technician at UNC; a 79-year-old man working toward his High School Equivalency to get a better paying job to care for his wife on disability; and a woman who worked in food service, earned her BioWork Certificate, and now works at Revlon.

Joyce hopes to be the next success story. She completed her High School Equivalency in December 2017 and will begin the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant course this month.

She credited Moore for pushing her to succeed.

“She is really dedicated to helping me get my High School Equivalency. I can tell she really wants me to get it and I don’t know what I would’ve done without her help,” Joyce said. “Most people give up on you if you don’t get your high school diploma because they think you don’t want anything after that, but some people just make mistakes. This program doesn’t give up on me like a lot of other people do. It feels good to know I’m on the right track now.”

From parenthood to Durham Tech, Yun thriving as NC State Goodnight Scholar

By 21, Madeline Yun was the general manager of a Chipotle in Sacramento, California. But she knew she wanted more than burritos and cilantro-lime rice.

“It was a big deal for a 21 year old, but at that point in my life, I knew I could do so much more,” Yun said. “I had the ability. I just needed to be in the right position to get there.”

The change she was searching for came in 2014 when her mother earned a promotion within her company and moved the family to Durham.

That same year, Yun became a new mother.

“After I had my daughter, Cora, I realized I wanted to create a stable life for us,” said Yun, now 25. “I didn’t want to always have to work and barely make ends meet so I decided to go back to school. It was the perfect time because she was so young.”

Yun enrolled at Durham Tech in Fall 2015.

College was a challenge for Yun at first, but it turned around quickly.

“I didn’t know what it was like to be in college because I had never been,” Yun said. “When I first started, I had forgotten how to study and I hadn’t spoken to professors before. I got to dip my toes in and try it all out at Durham Tech.”

As she worked toward an associate’s degree in engineering, she also worked part-time in the computer lab on campus.

Yun says it was challenging as a student parent.

“I struggled with the guilt of putting my daughter in daycare at such a young age,” Yun said. “There were moments where I felt like I was giving up too much precious time with her for a journey that I wasn’t sure would be beneficial for us. Self-doubt and guilt are obstacles I am learning to navigate as a student parent. Looking back, I am so grateful for the family, friends, and teachers in my life that encouraged me to continue.”

Yun graduated from Durham Tech in May 2017 and transferred to North Carolina State University where she is now majoring in Chemical Engineering. She credits Durham Tech for helping her find her career path.

“I didn’t start at Durham Tech thinking I wanted to be an engineer, let alone a chemical engineer,” Yun said. “While taking chemistry, I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’ I like the aspect of being able to use math to describe things in our world.”

Two months before she graduated from Durham Tech, her math instructor, Dr. Margaret Memory, announced the upcoming deadline for NC State’s Goodnight Scholars Program, which is a comprehensive scholarship program that awards full rides to students in STEM fields.

“The program gives you opportunities to be a better leader after you graduate and to pay it forward and serve the community that has done so much for you,” Yun said.

Yun quickly applied and was notified in April that she was a recipient.

“It was one of the best days of my life,” Yun said. “I was on cloud nine. It’s not just a full ride scholarship, it’s people saying, ‘We want to invest in you and we think you’re going to be a future leader,’ and that was a huge confidence booster for me.”

The NC State Goodnight Scholars Program chooses 50 first year recipients and 10 transfer student recipients every year. Yun and Luis Aguilar Angel were both Durham Tech transfer students awarded the scholarship.

“Being a Goodnight Scholar has already impacted my life in enormous ways,” Yun said. “Getting to be in situations where I get to learn from leaders that are out there right now is big. It also gives me an opportunity to be an advocate for transfer students, which I have a real passion for.”

Yun anticipates graduating from NC State in 2020 and wants to gain work experience at a local biomanufacturing company before starting her own company for chemical synthesis and machine learning. She eventually wants to sell that company and possibly venture into politics to become an advocate for education.

“Education gives us an opportunity to rise above our circumstances,” Yun said. “My mom worked so hard in the restaurant industry to support us and give us opportunities and now I’m going to school to be an engineer to give my daughter more opportunities.”

Let’s celebrate January anniversaries and birthdays!

January Anniversaries (Years)

Bonnie Tilson (15); Christopher Mansfield (15); Nathan Smith (15); Synthia Cooper (14); Steven Leadon (13); Suchitra Dutta (12); Donna Matheson (12); Donnetta Miller (12); Yolanda Moore-Jones (11); Leroy Pendergraft (10); Darlene Bullock (10); Gretel Guest (10); Christina Jaikaran (7); Haji Dove (7); Jairo McMican (7); Johanna Brown (7); Oliver Just (7); Diane Usher (6); Gilbert Umberger (6); Janice Murphy (6); Kimberly Robertson (6); Alecia Lawrence (5); Anne Harris (5); Tammie Davis (4); Victoria Deaton (4); Ernest Jannetta (3); Harriett Wagstaff (3); Ralph Thomas (3); Linda Hall (3); Adam Foster (2); Alicia Freeman (2); Kris Weberg (2); Kurt Laudicina (2); Tisha Phillips (2); Belinda Robertson (2); Courtney Bippley (1); Stephen Brooks (1); Audrey Newman (1); Barbara Pinter (1)

January Birthdays (Day)

Eliza Murphy (2); Heather Aloor (4); John Hurlburt (7); Roy Stallings (9); Lorelie Bingham (10); Iesha Cleveland (11); Travis Brown (12); Deidre Lancaster (13); Wendy Ramseur (14); Pamela Krakow (14); Lesley Chaffin (14); Darius Whitney (14); Justin Long (15); Gretel Guest (16); John Crutchfield (16); Maryah Smith-Overman (17); Kimberly Robertson (22); Charlene West (23); Suzanne Laudadio (23); Precious Vines (23); Marshall Fuller (24); Sue Cheng (24); Fabiola Ten (26); Candace Rashada (28); Teresa Holder (29); Mary Kennery (31)