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Hands-on learning means expanded skills

New Intro to Automotive course expands knowledge, skills and opportunities

Editor’s note: See this article for an explanation of the Kent Transition Center/Kent Career Tech Center merger.

Kent ISD — The first step in the process: explain the process.

“When it comes to the windows, we first wipe them down with water and a soft cloth,” said junior Gabriella Parrish. “We then dry them. From there…”

Gabriella stopped and looked around. 

“OK, we don’t have any here, but we have a spray bottle with stuff just for the windows that we use. Then we wipe the windows down going straight back and forth, because if you do a circular motion it will cause streaks.”

Gabriella was quick to point out that window cleaning is only one step in several when it comes to detailing a car, something she is learning to do in Kent Career Tech Center’s new Intro to Automotive program.

It is one of three new intro to career and technical education courses that will be offered by the Tech Center as part of a planned merger with Kent Transition Center. 

“The idea is to provide more career exploration opportunities to a broader population of students,” said Sara Van, Tech Center assistant principal who supervises the Auto Tech, Auto Collision and Welding programs.

Going to Town With Tools

The class is housed in the automotive wing of the Tech Center, which gives students access to the tool crib and other equipment. When the program was housed at KTC, Van said, students were limited to tools available there.

“The course is more elevated than what has been offered in the past,” said instructor Mike Kiekover of the Intro to Automotive course. “The students are getting an introduction to auto servicing that could allow them to get their foot in the door to do something.”

Students also have been able to expand their knowledge and skills learning such techniques as drill and tap to remove a bolt, and welding.

“In the past, the students would learn a little about a torch, how to turn it on and off,” Kiekover said. “At the end of the first semester (now), they were able to learn a little about welding.

“With drill and tap, we always did it with lighter materials just so it was easier. This time, we did it just like they would in a shop and the students really went to town using the tools. It was exciting to see.”

Intro to Automotive is a slower pace than the Tech Center’s Automotive Technology course. But students who complete it can move on to that course, go into a work-based learning course, or pursue other interests. Kiekover noted that two students transferred at the semester break from his class to Automotive Technology.

Van said some students have transferred to the intro class because they found Automotive Technology too fast-paced. Having the Intro to Automotive course at the Tech Center makes the transitions smoother, she said.

And starting next year, Kiekover said the intro course will follow National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation standards, with students able to earn S/P2 Safety & Pollution Prevention certification.  

Best Part: Working as a team

East Kentwood junior Logan Patrick said that when his class’s team started with one car, they coordinated efforts on cleaning, removing water bottles and other items. Receipts went into an envelope for the owner, and the students located a plastic bag to put found change. 

From there, each took a task. Gabriella, who attends Sparta High School, vacuumed the trunk, while Byron Center junior Ethan Speese cleaned out the back seat and Logan wiped the door frames.

“I like this program because we all work together,” Gabriella said, adding that she already cleans vehicles at Kent Equipment. “It’s been fun. I like it because of all the different things we have learned, such as the tools and the exterior of the car.”

Ethan said he especially likes sports cars, which he would go see at places such as Berlin Raceway when he was younger. 

He hopes to get a job in the automotive field. “It’s just really been a lot of fun.”

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio

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