Faculty Spotlight: Francis Cho

The Teaching & Learning Center at Mountain View College seeks to share teaching practices across the entire institution. The following article showcases a faculty member, provides insight into the environment they’ve created for MVC students, and demonstrates effective teaching practices. 

This month we showcase Uichung “Francis” Cho, Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering, Professor and Chair in Engineering.


What is one element about MVC that makes it the “best college on earth?”

Community college has different teaching and undergraduate research environment in comparison to four-year institutions. For example, some experimental classes that combine art and engineering will make MVC very unique.

Our student demographics may not have the financial resources and may not feel confident. If we can help our students take more diverse, non-core curriculum, they may be able to better decide their future potential (majors). My goal is to implement high-quality and more diverse engineering classes.


How would your students describe you or your teaching style?

Challenging, conceptual, practical and creative.

I attempt to motivate my students through the latest cool technology. Some feels 3D technology daunting, but after understanding the technology behind it, students think about the way to utilize it, which naturally lead them critical skillset – interactive graphics programming. Programming, microprocessor control, and graphics will become key elements in the coming years (5-10 years). If our students understand and get exposed to this, they will be more marketable in the job market.


What teaching strategies do you find most successful in your courses?

Motivate students by letting them to think about years to come and what should they prepare, providing futuristic and fun examples. In parallel, I try to provide options to take industry-accepted certificates (e.g., SolidWorks CSWA).

Changes made in the past 50 years are now happening in the span of 2-5 years today. If students are not aware of future technologies their learning may be already obsolete. I attempt to integrate current and future technologies.

Unlike the new technology, there exist long lasting core concepts that build foundation of engineering. I tried to teach these core concepts in a very simplified manner, in order to minimize distraction.


What do your students love most about your courses?

Eureka! Understanding key concepts so that they can apply it to specific problems.

Students, by firmly understanding the concepts, students can become more creative and work independently, which makes engineers different from technicians.

What is one creative solution you’ve implemented to address a specific challenge in your courses?

Use of design methodology to amplify student’s creativity. Combination of Arduino and 3D printer to teach synergy effect of technologies.

At the beginning, students have several challenging but rewarding design topics to choose from. One example is a smart cane to replaces a traditional cane for people with vision loss. We choose an existing product, brainstorm, build prototypes to verify the new concepts. This is project-based teaching that goes beyond theory and they naturally study what they need to learn in order to accomplish their close to real-world projects.


What has been your most positive or rewarding teaching experience?

Hearing thanks from students at the end of semester and more.

I feel happy when students understand difficult concepts, and start to apply it to other problems. I would like to hear that my class is very challenging but very rewarding. Here is actual remark from one of my students:

“Engineering is hard work. Professor Cho is a great guy. Very intelligent, very helpful, and very kind. But be prepared to work your butt off. There were weeks that I spent 10 hours in the CAD lab on homework. His tests are the hardest tests I’ve ever taken. Especially the theoretical portion. You can make an A or B, but be prepared to work.”


What advice would you give to a new faculty member at MVC?

Do not under-teach students. Set the quality of your class high.

As a faculty, we must ensure that the standards we set meet and even exceed those standards at four-year institutions.

Who is one person at MVC who has been instrumental to your success (and why)?

Dr. Jones was very supportive in setting up infrastructure for engineering program. Without him, I may not have felt interest in teaching engineering here at MVC.

Before I joined MVC, I was running a start up company specializing in 3D technology. My business was so stressful as we should have competed with industry giants like Microsoft. This business field was so stressful but I still loved the technology. Dr. Jones helped me to utilize such technology for MVC STEM students. He and I also prepared grant proposal in adopting 3D technology for teaching. We also developed AR and VR app for STEM education.


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