Career-ready at the Manufacturing Academy [The Decatur Daily, Ala. :: ]
(Decatur Daily (AL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 03--MOULTON -- Hatton High senior Nathan Anderton is becoming career-ready by playing with fire.
A red-orange shower of sparks fell around Anderton as he carefully cut sheet metal with a welding torch at the new Manufacturing Academy in the Lawrence County Center of Technology. It's a hobby Anderton has practiced with his father. But at the academy, he can mold his hobby into a career.
"There's stuff to be welded out there, and it's a good-paying job," Anderton, 17, said. "It's a hard trade to do, but if you get in there and do it right, you'll go a long way."
Welding is one of five classes offered at the academy, which started this school year.
The technology center received a $327,000 financial boost in 2013 when the Legislature approved a $50 million bond issue to help high school technology programs.
Principal Wade Fleming used the extra funds to purchase new equipment, such as plasma cutters and PLC trainers. Fleming said the classes will give the 250 students enrolled in the academy a chance to acquire skills they can take into the working world.
"The students are going to be lifelong learners, and they are going to be able to work in teams," Fleming said. "The goal is workforce development and trying to mimic what's going on in those industries."
In the industrial electronics class, Lawrence County High junior Bradley Flynn is working with his classmates to spin a small motor with circuit wires. He is most interested in learning how to put together
circuits to manufacture a robot. Flynn, 17, said he looks forward to seeing inanimate objects come to life every school day.
"It's my favorite class because it's more fun," Flynn said. "It's hands-on, which is better than doing bookwork all day."
LCHS senior Kayla Latham is gaining knowledge in the pre-engineering design class. She is one of 31 girls enrolled in the academy. Latham, 17, utilizes her love of computers by drafting, designing and modeling parts for rockets, cars and more by using 3-D modeling software such as AutoCAD and Inventor. Latham wants to use her skills to become a mechanical engineer for the Navy or a technical engineer for the Army.
"People think we should do something like cosmetology," Latham said. "There's nothing wrong with that, but I feel like I'm proving that girls are just as smart as guys. We can do anything they can do."
The academy allows students to take their manufacturing passions shared with family and friends and turn those talents into a career. LCHS senior Jesse Procter's love of cars started at age 8, when his father taught him how to clean a carburetor. Since enrolling in the auto service class, Procter, 17, gets his hands greasy while working on tractors, cars, lawn mowers and anything else with a motor. He said the most fascinating thing he has learned is how an automatic transmission works.
"It's all fluid driven," Procter said. "It amazes me that fluid could have that much power to do all that stuff."
In the industrial maintenance class, LCHS junior Tristan Sandlin will start out reading tape measures and end his high school career knowing about hydraulics, laser and precision-belt alignment. Sandlin, 16, said this class prepares him for the workforce because he gets the welding, mechanical and electrical experience all in one class.
"Some of us could get a job straight out of high school, but it would be better to go to college to get a head start on everything," Sandlin said.
The academy also has a project-based learning component. Throughout the year, the academy's 65 seniors will bring all their new skills to the table to create a moon buggy. Fleming said the students will build their teamwork skills by working toward a common goal.
"All these things created by NASA weren't done with just a couple of guys," Fleming said. "It involved a lot of departments coming together."
Along with engineering wooden catapults and homes, Latham said the program gives her something that cannot be taught in a classroom.
"It taught me to be a leader," she said. "I learn how to work with other people and take other ideas and collaborate those ideas with my own."
Jonece Dunigan can be reached at 256-340-2442 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @DD_Dunigan.
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