Students power new tech course

Ben Frailey, Colten Hewitt and teacher Jon Sayre work on loose-fitting a small engine motor during Power Technology – a Blue Ridge high school course designed to integrate high level mathematics with hands-on knowledge. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

Ben Frailey, Colten Hewitt and teacher Jon Sayre work on loose-fitting a small engine motor during Power Technology – a Blue Ridge high school course designed to integrate high level mathematics with hands-on knowledge. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

BY STACI WILSON

A new course at Blue Ridge blends high level math and science skills with hands-on mechanical learning.

Power Technology – a class idea put forward by teacher Jon Sayre – brings to class “a unique skill set of real world experience, computer technology and practical mechanical design,” High School Principal Matthew Nebzydoski said.

The program also meets the STEM standards – science, technology, engineering, math – with its unique blend of lecture and lab work.
The course was also made possible through a $5,000 Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant program.

The funds were used to purchase the hand tools the students need for their work on the small engines, as well as roll carts and a sand blaster to prepare parts for finished projects, including the overall class project of restoring an antique lawn tractor.

The students plan to exhibit the lawnmower in the antique tractor exhibit at the Harford Fair this coming summer.

The school week is split between lecture and engine lab time. Most of the students prefer the lab work, Sayre said.

“Our main goal is to give the students an opportunity to work with their hands – to take (a motor) apart in a controlled way and the learning that goes along with that,” Sayre said.

But the teacher’s focus for the class is on more than small engine engineering and mechanics.

“The jobs that are in demand are trade jobs,” Sayre said. “That’s a part of the economy that is not being filled. There’s a lot of opportunity there now.”

Students in the class get a better idea of the mechanical fields that are open for them in the future, Sayre said. It also helps them pinpoint whether they would like to go on to a technical degree or certification program or even pursue an advanced engineering degree.

The course does provide an introduction to a program of a set of courses in the trades, the teacher said.

“We’re not a vo-tech school, and we’re not trying to be,” Sayre said, “but we can give students an idea of what they may go into.”

Sayre said the class gives students a better understanding of mechanics and how the trade fits into different industries.

Nebzydoski said Power Technology is a high interest course at the high school with a waiting list. Offered only one class period a day, another slot may be added to next year’s course schedule in order to accommodate more students.