Big Bend Community College's UAS program receives accreditation



According to the Columbia Basin Herald, students in Big Bend Community College’s (BBCC) UAS program will be able to receive an Associate of Applied Science degree in the program starting in January, after the program received accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

BBCC also received accreditation for a “certificate of achievement” in its mechatronics program.

As a result of the accreditation, students taking classes under the programs will qualify to receive financial aid for them, says program director Pat Ford. Ford says that training in both UAS and mechatronics will open up opportunities in a field that continues to grow every day.

Located in Moses Lake, Washington, BBCC has been offering UAS classes since fall 2016. The UAS program includes both fixed-wing and rotorcraft UAS, and teaches flight operations, system programming and troubleshooting.

In order to receive a UAS management degree, participation in the mechatronics program is required. Instructor Gary Baker says that the technology has allowed students to afford the tools they need to learn mechatronics.

“We’re teaching about microprocessors and microcontrollers as it relates to robotics,” Baker says. Microprocessors and microcontrollers are both extremely important when flying UAS.

Thanks to the accessibility of the technology, students have access to advanced systems at a reasonable price, Baker says. The program is beneficial because it allows students to learn plenty of lessons, including how to build their own 3D printers.

“They’re not left with a book and some memories, they’re left with some hardware,” adds Baker.

After getting the theory, students build their own systems, so when they graduate they're not dependent on the school, as they have the equipment necessary to get started.

People from all walks of life have found the UAS program beneficial so far. A real estate agent who is a friend of program assistant Laura Goodell took the course and now handles all of the aerial photography for her office.

Other participants in the program include a retiree, Running Start students, people working toward engineering degrees and people retraining for new careers.

“I recognized that this is an emerging technology,” says Jim Leland, one of the people retraining for a new career. After being laid off from his previous job, Leland had to find a new career opportunity. 

“In talking about what I wanted to do, this just jumped out,” Leland says.

“What an opportunity,” comments the retiree in the program, Kate Carey. Carey was laid off at the age of 65, but she wasn’t ready to retire at that point in time. A friend urged her to move to Ephrata, Washington, where she began looking for new opportunities, which ultimately led her to the BBCC program.