Dr. Bustamante with Rwandan Kids
 

Dr. Bustamante’s Classroom Approach to Engineering and Technology

By Vaughn College

Passion and dedication are the driving forces behind one of Vaughn College’s newest faculty members. With one year under his belt at Vaughn, backed by 24 years of teaching experience, Miguel Bustamante, PhD, assistant professor of engineering and technology, is making his mark on campus with an exceptional teaching approach, all the while spearheading a recent humanitarian mission to Rwanda.

Bustamante brings 24 years of teaching a multitude of engineering and technology courses at Vaughn, such as electrical engineering, program logic control, programming language, and feedback control systems. These courses supply the knowledge and skill set that are the basis for success in the industry. They give students the ability to stand out from the crowd, and Bustamante loves nothing more than to pass this passion along to his students.

“Judgement-Free” Classroom

Bustamante believes making his classroom a “judgement-free” zone is the key to ensuring his students’ success. He admits the engineering and technology courses he teaches can be challenging but explains how his unique approach has proven to be a formula for student success. “It’s important to make students feel at ease while still being firm with them,” Bustamante stated. “Teaching is all in the approach and keeping students engaged.”

Here are some ways of how Bustamante ensures his students’ success in his engineering and technology courses:

  • Create a “judgement-free” zone where students can express themselves freely and ask questions without fear of being wrong
  • Bring humor to discussions to lighten the mood
  • Bring real-life experiences to lectures
  • Write information on the board to keep concepts fresh in their minds

Because the classes required for engineering degrees can be challenging, he believes these approaches will encourage student success and a positive classroom experience.

Where his passion started

Bustamante’s passion for electrical engineering began at an early age growing up in Columbia, South America, but it wasn’t until his family moved to New York when he was 15 years old that he knew his future in engineering would become a reality.

After high school graduation, Bustamante enrolled at a local college in New York where he earned a bachelor of science degree and a master’s degree in electric engineering. In 1996, he began teaching at the college, devoting himself to his students every step of the way. In 2004, he decided to go back to school to pursue his PhD in electrical engineering. “Teaching inspired me to pursue my doctorate,” Bustamante said. “It was important for me to pass my knowledge in mathematics and engineering on to my students.”

 Bringing Classroom Knowledge to a Real World Mission

The Vaughn student chapter of Engineers Without Borders proudly partnered with the humanitarian efforts of Engineers Without Borders USA, an organization that utilizes the skills of engineers across the country to combat the challenges faced by some of the world’s poorest people in their efforts to live healthy lives.

Last February, Bustamante, along with four Vaughn students who are pursuing engineering and technology degrees, visited the African country of Rwanda to test water supplies in the village of Kibingo. The goal of the 10-day mission was to determine a solution that would provide potable water to the town of 900 villagers. The team located, tested and marked every water source in the village, tested the sediment in the soil, and met with authorities.

“The students had the ability to use their knowledge of mathematics, science and computer-aided design from their engineering and technology courses in a real-world scenario,” Bustamante said. “Their collected data was analyzed, revealing microbial contamination that exceeds the limits in accordance with the National Primary Drinking Water Standards (NPDWS) set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), confirming the water sources are unsafe and inadequate for safe consumption.”

Currently, the students are crafting an engineering solution system to provide enough clean water to serve over 250 families in the village of Kibingo. “The post-assessment and solution to treating the water supplies is good to go,” Bustamante stated. “We are now working on raising capital for the project and plan on returning to Rwanda in January 2020 to implement the system.”

When it comes to achieving your goals, Bustamante believes in staying the course and forging ahead to overcome any obstacles. “I want my students to remember that gaining knowledge will only get them halfway to their goals. The other half is to never lose their sense of wonder and knowing the journey to knowledge never ends.”

Learn more about Vaughn’s engineering and technology programs.