Times are Good for Students Taking Tech Classes at TK

Briley Oli, a junior, works with Devin Hall on a 3-D image of a house Briley created in his architectural design class

Students in Scott Meyers’ industrial design classes at Thornapple Kellogg High School know what they’re doing in more ways than one. Taking Meyers’ classes teaches them engineering, architecture, computer-aided design and other skills. Plus, it gives them a good idea of what career they might want to pursue after high school and where they want to attend college.

When a group of students was asked where they planned to continue their education, the replies came without hesitation: “Two years at Grand Rapids Community College, then transfer to Ferris State University to finish my degree,” one said. “Two years at GRCC and two years at Ferris,” said another. “The same as them,” chimed in another.

Is Mechanical Engineering
Right for You?

A mechanical engineer uses computer software programs to design or redesign devices such as engines, machines and robots. It’s important to have technical and math skills, but engineers also have certain personal qualities, according to business writer Neil Kokemuller from Demand Media.

Creativity
New equipment and products are developed for customers, and creativity is an essential part of this. The development process involves brainstorming ideas and testing them through trial and error.

Communication
You have to know how to listen to directions and be able to talk to clients about problems when they occur. Asking the right questions, providing progress reports and leading a team are other communication skills needed.

Problem-Solving
Math skills and analytical abilities are needed to spot problems and fix them. Examples of this part of the work may be re-calibrating testing equipment, fine-tuning specifications or adjusting materials used in production.

Source: The Houston Chronicle

Not all of Meyers’ students are taking the same college route, of course, but he said when any of his students pursue higher education, they will probably find themselves at the top of their class because of the level of what they’re learning in high school.

“They’re light years ahead of 50 percent of the kids in college with them because of their background,” Meyers said. “If you have no background in what you want to do, you’re like a fish out of water.”

On a recent afternoon, students are spread out around a large classroom working on various projects they have personally selected. A lot of them have been together in the class for three years.

“It becomes sort of like family. It’s not your typical classroom,” Meyers said. “They don’t have to be here, it’s not a required class, but they keep coming back.”

“I didn’t know what it was until I took a class, and then I fell in love with it,” said Joshua Degroot. “It’s exciting, making something and finally seeing it all go together virtually.”

Partnering with Business

A shelf near the ceiling around the entire classroom is filled with award-winning projects from the annual Michigan Industrial and Technology Education Society competition. Some of the students who’ve brought home the awards already have made inroads to landing their first job by the time they graduate. Bradford White, a water heater manufacturer in Middleville, has been offering internships to students for several years, and more than a few interns have been hired by the company after college.

“It’s good for us,” said Jim Robertson, the company’s engineering manager. “We get good help, and they get good experience.”

The school also works with Lacks Engineering and is trying to develop partnerships with other companies.

Engineering is a solid-paying field for graduates in Michigan, Meyers said. According to the state of Michigan, the median hourly range is around $21. Companies, though, are struggling to find employees for the jobs they have available because applicants lack the right skills.

Technical skills like Clay Francisco is learning in an industrial arts class at Thornapple Kellogg High School can help students land the types of jobs many Michigan employers are trying to fill

Robertson recalled having a hard time finding a product engineer, and the solution his company came up with was to train an intern for the job once the student finished college. “Companies need people with training and background,” Robertson said.

A Wise Way to Go

Another cool part for students — and their parents, if Mom and Dad are paying the college bill — is that they can earn nine free college credits during high school — saving thousands of dollars before they even sit down in their first college class, Meyers said.

“We really think the worst thing to do is to goto college without a plan,” he said. “If nothing else, they can see what they don’t like in these classes.”

CONNECT

Michigan Industrial Technology Education Society (MITES) and Facebook page

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Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio

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