A thank you to High Point Tech Dept.
Heading off to study engineering at Penn State has been a rewarding and eye-opening experience for many reasons. Looking back, however, I believe that the Technological Studies Department at High Point Regional High School prepared me in a few key ways. Additionally, after graduating with my undergraduate degree, I believe more high schools need to emphasize the importance of a technology, design, and problem-solving related department. The experiences gained through a high school technology department can be useful and referenced in a wide variety of careers.
I’ve heard many of my college classmates, from various high schools, say that they didn’t like high school, or that they’re glad it’s over, or that they wouldn’t go back. I greatly enjoyed high school and I would go back because of the Technological Studies Department. Competing in TSA (Technology Student Association), the Thomas Edison Invention Challenge, the Panasonic Creative Design Challenge, and the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Competition were some of the best experiences, and exposed me to a variety of skills which I have carried throughout college. Along with these competitions, the classes that the department offered; CAD, Materials Processing, Power/Energy, and Engineering Design were very well thought out and structured.
Some of the best engineers that I have seen as incoming freshman, are those that combine good study habits with prior hands-on engineering experiences. The majority of these prior hands-on engineering experiences come from high schools with strong technology programs. VEX, First Robotics, and TSA, are just a few that stand out. At the end of the day, you need to put some rubber to the road and you need some practical experience. Does that design meet the eye test before running an hour long FEA simulation? Can you manufacture that design? Gaining some basics in high school certainly helps.
Learning CAD and 3D modeling in high school has been one of the largest benefits for me, as an engineering student. I’ve had assignments in college to create 3D models and engineering drawings of a product in Solidworks. I can recall many times when I would be able to finish the assignment in an hour, while it took the rest of the class 2-3 hours to finish. The skill-set has also allowed me to create more advanced designs and see potential problems without a great number of design iterations.
I should note, however, that I believe a technology education department is good for more than just aspiring engineering students. Let’s say that 30% of students from a graduating class go off and earn a bachelor's degree from a university. Maybe that number is higher or lower, I’m not sure. Either way, there is a great need for manufacturing and trade related positions in industry. From my view, schools put a lot of emphasis on honors classes and AP scores because if students test well, it looks good for the school. Scores and rankings give the school a higher rating in magazines and online journals. Again, however, that is only placing focusing on maybe the top 30 percent of a graduating class. A portion of the remaining 70 percent, could be trained with more skills to help them in the workforce — and help America benefit as a whole. I think bringing in more professionals from industry or taking class trips to different businesses/industries (in small groups of course) could peak interest in a certain trade that students don’t know exist. Often times, students don’t know what they want to do what when they graduate. A high school technology department has an opportunity to help expose students to different career options and help fill the large void in skilled US manufacturing jobs. Going to a trade school to learn about CNC, welding, or another career opportunity is great and, in my opinion, precursors to this type of training should not be limited to those attending a Vo-Tech like high school. Learning about documentation, drafting, manufacturing, wiring, and other problem-solving related skills are invaluable.
The Technological Studies Department at High Point makes students work in groups, communicate, work with other students who have different skill sets, meet deadlines, compete, document their processes, and create solutions to problems. This is how the real-world works. Additionally, from my personal experience, the resources within High Point’s Technological Studies Department allow students to be creative if they take advantage of them. Being able to connect different experiences together and think creatively is a crucial skill.
Time and time again at Penn State, I’ve seen many freshman engineers hesitate to go to the career fair because “they don’t have anything on their resume”. Coming out of the Technological Studies Department at High Point gave me plenty to put on my resume. Additionally, when John Deere was interviewing me for my first internship, I referenced projects and experiences from High Point. The department has certainly had an impact on my success.
Lastly, just to reference back to the resources in High Point’s Technological Studies Department — and this isn’t necessarily the case for me, because Penn State has great labs and equipment, but - I’ve heard from other students that High Point has better equipment and facilities than their college’s engineering departments. Between the CAD Lab, Power/Energy/Transportation Lab, Engineering Design Lab and the special offerings like Biotechnology, Women in Engineering, and Woodshop, students can gain a valuable skill set for their future. If a student doesn’t know how he or she wants to fulfill their career, the Technological Studies Department can be a great place to start. A special thanks to Mr. Drelick, Mr. Kappler, Mr. Peltier, Mr. Gonzalez, and Mr. Wallace for their instruction while I attended High Point. Check out their offerings at: http://www.hpregional.org/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=8752898
Additive Manufacturing and Design,
HPRHS Class of 2014s