Aug 25, 2017

County-backed media lab gets CNM students engaged in economic development

People go to college to acquire knowledge and skills they can apply in the business world after graduation. But some Central New Mexico College (CNM) students are using their technical skills in the business world while still enrolled in classes—thanks to an on-campus lab that was started by the Sandoval County Office of Economic Development.

The CNM Sandoval County Digital Media Lab is located on CNM’s Rio Rancho campus. It operates under a partnership between the college and the county. The lab is expected to support economic development in the county in multiple ways.

“First and foremost, we want the lab to support economic-based businesses located in the county,” said Antoinette Vigil, director of economic development for Sandoval County.

Economic-based businesses—commonly referred to as e-based businesses—generate most of their revenue from outside the area in which they are located, which means they bring new money into the community.

In Sandoval County, a number of e-based businesses are solo entrepreneurs such as consultants or engineers serving primarily out of state clients. The county’s office of economic development confirmed that fact after contracting with Wendy Ederer of Cornerstone Consulting to conduct a Solo Work Initiative.

That two-phase project ultimately should help link the Digital Media Lab with local e-based businesses. Phase one was identifying the industry sectors for all businesses within the county. That uncovered more than more than 90 e-based businesses that had not been previously identified. Phase two involves connecting some of those e-based businesses with CNM Sandoval County Digital Media Lab.

“We also are exploring ways in which the lab can support businesses in the services sector, because we already are getting a large number of requests for assistance from those types of businesses,” Vigil said. “The ultimate goal is to provide support for as many businesses as possible while also providing educational benefits to CNM students.”

media lab faculty members

The lab’s history dates to the spring of 2016, when it was launched under an agreement with a local scientist and educator who operated it out an office on Intel’s campus in Rio Rancho. However, the county’s desire to make the lab more accessible to the public—and to more students—led to the partnership with CNM Rio Rancho, where the lab reopened in the fall of 2016.

Since its relaunch, more than 100 CNM students have worked on various projects for local businesses, according to Victoria Stark-Romero, the lab’s liaison to the business community

All students working on projects through the lab are enrolled in a course in CNM’s Computer Information Systems (CIS) Program.

From web design to promotional videos

Most of the projects completed to date involved small businesses that are service oriented, which Stark-Romero says tend to have a major need for help in marketing their products or services. With that in mind, the media lab offers a list of services ranging from designing business logos and web sites to developing mobile apps and producing promotional videos. See the full list of the lab's services.

Promotional videos for Rio Rancho’s Sunday is Fun Day event, and the Chill Zone, a frozen yogurt shop inBernalillo, are among the lab’s recently completed projects.

“These are 100 % student-created projects,” Stark-Romero said. “They shot and edited all of the footage, and one of the students composed the music for the Chill Zone video.”

The Chill Zone video demonstrates the value the media lab can bring to a small business. It highlight’s businesses crepe-making operation, which is not something most people associate with a yogurt shop. “They use this video to boost their winter-time business,” said Marla Peters, who teaches the course in which the students who created the video were enrolled.

That course is called Digital Video Editing. However, the lab pulls students from any CIS course that teaches skills related to a pending project. For instance, students from other courses are currently designing web sites and databases for these organizations:

• Penny Lane Foal Rescue and Training Center in Rio Rancho
• My Parents Adult Day Care in Rio Rancho
• The Corrales Historical Society in Corrales.

With the fall semester starting, the lab is collaborating with the county’s economic development department and its Solo Work Initiative, the Sandoval Economic Alliance and the Sandoval County Small Business Development Center on an event to recruit and refer businesses for new lab projects. The event is scheduled for October 6, 2017 at the El Zócalo Event Center in Bernalillo.

“We hope to get at least six new projects for the fall,” Stark-Romero said. “Businesses can get these services at no cost because the projects are tied to the CNM curriculum.”

Business owners also can expect enthusiastic teams working on their projects. Peters, the digital media instructor, said, “Our students overwhelmingly appreciate the opportunity to work on real-world projects rather made-up classroom exercises.”