Industrial arts classes prepare students for high-tech work world

April 25, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

Industrial arts classes in Carroll County are getting a new name: technology education.

The difference is that, instead of making birdhouses, students are more likely to program a robot. Or assemble a solar-powered vehicle. Or design an airplane.

South Carroll High School has a new technology education lab this year that is expected to be a model for other high schools in the county and in Maryland.

The spacious room has a series of 13 stations, each of which focuses on a different technology. Most have a computer and other hardware, such as a robot arm at the robotics station and a graphic printer at the air transportation station.

After teacher Cliff Feldman gives the students an introduction to each, they choose five areas and spend one week on each, usually working in pairs.

"It's a lot more directly applicable to the work world," said Robert Gray, a technology education specialist for the state Department of Education. "It's very likely that the students will be working [after they graduate] in a setting that resembles that classroom now."

Mr. Gray has taken several educators from other schools through South Carroll, and said he believes the lab will be a model for others. Carroll school officials plan to build a similar lab at Francis Scott Key High School in Uniontown and eventually expand the technology program to all high schools.

East Middle School has a similar program, with a focus on desktop publishing and video photography.

Until South Carroll changed its technological approach, shop classes never interested Keith Jacobs, a senior. He didn't consider himself the type for that kind of work.

"I thought of it as lower education, not as higher education," Keith said. "I've heard a lot of kids say the same thing, but it's changing."

More students are talking about the sophistication of the classes, he said.

"I wish I was forced to take it as a freshman," Keith said. If he had been, he said, he could have taken more technology courses on specific topics, such as the laser and fiber optics he has worked with in his technology education class.

He plans to enroll in Carroll Community College after he graduates from South Carroll, he said, and attend a four-year university in his junior year.

"The people that take it [technology] can get better jobs right now and still be able to go to school," Keith said.

Mr. Gray said classes such as the one at South Carroll will attract more girls, as well as boys such as Keith.

"I think what will draw more girls is the fact that it's a requirement now," Mr. Feldman said.

In most vocational career schools, girls still tend to enroll in cosmetology, health care and food service classes instead of industrial programs that might bring them higher salaries later in life.

Angela Alexander, a South Carroll freshman from Woodbine, said she wants to be an aesthetician, a cosmetologist with a European focus on skin care.

Even so, the technology class she's taking this year will help her, she said.

"More or less, it's the computer [skills], like word processing and just to save documents on a disk," she said.

Next year, Angela said, she plans to take a computer literacy course.

This year's freshmen represent the first class that must fulfill one technology education credit to graduate. They can meet the requirement with other kinds of classes, such as advanced chemistry. But Mr. Gray believes most will take the technology class, where they can choose between different fields.

When Mr. Gray taught industrial arts at Parkville High School several years ago, students always made clocks in class, he said.

Mr. Feldman said that the difference between industrial arts classes of five to 10 years ago and the technological classes today is that the focus has shifted from making something to take home to learning how to design something, or how a computer works or how a hydraulic machine moves.

"Producing is not what we're all about," he said. "We want them to get the concept."

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