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IVC News > August 03, 2020

About-Face: IDEA Alum Pivots to Support PPE Initiative

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Good training is one thing. Good timing is another. For Mahbanoo Iranzamini, an expert Engineering Tech for Orange County medical supplier Applied Manufacturing, it was a bit of both.

The Irvine Valley College alum was busy in her new career, employing the skills she honed in IVC’s Drafting Tech & Engineering program to design medical supplies, when, in an instant, the blueprint changed.

“All of a sudden, there wasn’t as much demand for medical devices,” says Iranzamini, who typically specializes in injection molding for vascular stents, simulators, and other high-tech surgical products. “We had to shut down some of our plants.”

In the midst of a global health crisis, demand for traditional medical supplies – even the cutting-edge innovations of Applied Manufacturing – was ironically frozen. What the industry needed was a lot more “low-tech.” 

“Our company got the request to make face shields, and we all decided to help,” says Iranzamini, who was by then working from home.

The effort lasted about a month, drawing on the volunteer manpower of virtually every employee in the department. Just as demand for critical PPE peaked nationwide, Iranzamini and her colleagues delivered one million, CAD-designed protective face shields.

We came up with the design, the shield, and how to connect the band,” she recalls. “The [device] was simple, but we needed people and time to get to a million.”

The initiative proved such a success, that the company has since ventured to other avenues of crisis support. Currently, employees are hard at work vetting swab designs to address the shortage of COVID-19 test kits.

Iranzamini’s capacity to find solutions through improvisation bears testament, in part, to her time at Irvine Valley College. As a bachelor’s degree-holder taking classes in drafting and engineering under IDEA department chair Matt Wolken, she began to build the hands-on experience she’d need for a confident career in CAD.

“Everything he taught, I’m using at work right now,” says Iranzamini, citing “some of the shortcuts on SolidWorks” as an example.

The School of Integrated Design, Engineering and Automation (IDEA) is 30,000+ square feet of high-tech career education classrooms and lab space. The facility, housed at the Advanced Technology and Education Park (ATEP) in Tustin, is a model maker’s Valhalla, with cutting-edge labs dedicated to design model prototyping, digital manufacturing and automation. For a rising star like Iranzamini, it was the right place at the right time.

“Offering viable pathways to highly marketable technical pathways is critical,” says Wolken. “Mahbanoo’s story showcases the real value of the IDEA School.”

But it wasn’t just the facilities that attracted Iranzamini. It was the philosophy. Wolken’s career as a design engineer had engendered a desire to expand and innovate the industry through education. That experience-driven passion would become apparent in his classes, and for Iranzamini, it was a game-changer.

“I know that he’s motivated, himself – the way that he talks and teaches,” says the IDEA alum. “He always gave great information – not from the book, but [what] he learned from his experience working for companies.”

Wolken’s spirit of positivity, which Iranzamini says is contagious throughout the IDEA faculty, didn’t hurt either.

“I was always wanting to continue engineering, but I wasn’t sure I had the confidence,” she recalls. “He’s such a good counselor, too… really motivated me to pursue engineering."

Irvine Valley College offers dozens of career, transfer, and Strong Workforce-funded skills development pathways through the School of IDEA. For working adults looking to build skills and certifications, there are fast, focused courses covering proficiencies like electro-mechanical systems, prototyping, and CAD. 

Meanwhile, those with four-year university aspirations like Iranzamini find the best of both worlds – a hands-on career education and an affordable beginning to a bachelor’s degree.

“If someone really wants to get a hands-on idea of what you’re going to be doing in the future for work, it’s a great start,” she says. “I recommend it.”

“The IDEA school has a wide array of technical classes to support any student who wishes to fully prepare for the technical job market,” adds Wolken.

This Spring, Iranzamini has continued to look to Irvine Valley College to level up her professional skills. Currently holding the title of Engineering Tech II, she expects that her upcoming review will result in a promotion. After that? She’s heading across the 405 to pursue her master’s degree in industrial engineering at UC Irvine’s Samuel School of Engineering – a partner of IVC since 2018.

“I’m going to do biomedical engineering, because I really like engineering and I really like medical stuff,” says the prototyping prodigy, whose current project for Applied Manufacturing involves redesigning a fixture for a medical measurement machine using SolidWorks. “I really want to get my degree and learn more.”

With a foundation literally built on an IDEA, Iranzamini’s future in the world of industrial engineering is Laser-bright. And while her proud professor is happy to claim her as a program success story, he credits the bulk of his star pupil’s success with her generous, positive demeanor and measured approach to learning.

“As both an engineer and instructor I could not help but admire the patient manner in which she developed her talents and increased her potential,” lauds Wolken. “She is, without a doubt, one of my top students.”

Iranzamini is grateful for the unwavering support of Wolken, and all of her instructors at IVC.

“I couldn’t get that anywhere else,” she reflects.


Visit atep.ivc.edu to learn more about Irvine Valley College’s School of Integrated Design, Engineering and Automation (IDEA), and to explore student projects. ​

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