Dual credit opportunities, interest growing

August 5, 2013

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “No ordinary shop class” — Two years ago, Algoma, Luxemburg-Casco and Kewaunee School Districts were presented with the option to use a mobile CNC (computer numerical control) lab out of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, but none took the option.

Even before NWTC offered the mobile lab, Kewaunee County districts had been working hard to create top-notch CNC programs for their students.

CNC machines are automated drilling tools that make precision industrial parts with direction from coded instructions. They allow manufacturers to design and create parts quickly and with accuracy. CNC machines are primarily used in milling.

“The mobile lab is excellent and has great technology, but the rotation design would not meet our student’s needs,” Luxemburg-Casco Superintendent Pat Saunders said. “Our students show substantial interest in the subject matter, so we decided to invest more in our own technological education program.”

Cost of the mobile lab was approximately $360,000 with additional costs of about $10,000 per school per year for its use. Schools that use the lab would have access to it for about a half-day per week.

Algoma School District has a goal for their CNC lab to become a regional learning center for students, workers and businesses. Nick Cochart, principal and athletic director of Algoma High School, has been persistent in improving the technical education curriculum since he became principal two years ago.

“We provide an opportunity for our students, and it is some of the best money we have ever spent,” Cochart said.

The Luxemburg-Casco School Board allots money each year to technical education program improvements, Saunders said.

“We (the district) looked seriously into the mobile lab, but it was too expensive and it packs up and leaves,” said Ron Vandermause, tech ed teacher at L-C High School. “We are pushing these classes, because the students like what they are doing and they have a lot of job opportunities that offer high paying wages.”

Preparing for college

The proximity to NWTC has proven to be beneficial to each of the schools, even if they have not taken the option to work with the mobile lab. Algoma High School is set up within a dual credit program where students earn college and high school credits in multiple subjects, including English, math and science. The CNC program gives them the ability to earn up to 12 college credits transcribed to NWTC.

“If we didn’t have the equipment, we would have to be part of the mobile lab,” Algoma Principal Mike Holz said. “NWTC requires that we have the proper machines and courses available to cooperate with them, and we do.”

Kewaunee High School also offers transcribed classes from NWTC where students can earn up to 10 credits with the CNC classes. Dual credits for NWTC are available to Kewaunee students in other studies including business, agricultural and family and consumer education.

Although no credit hours for college level courses can be earned at Luxemburg-Casco High School, the teachers are striving to prepare their students for a future in employment and education by closely communicating with professors at NWTC, Saunders said.

L-C considers the CNC classes to be essential to preparing its students for college. Giving students the ability to read complex technical manuals and learning math skills are an essential in the curriculum.

“Students should be college- and career-ready,” Saunders said.

Statistics show Kewaunee County students have taken advantage of NWTC’s proximity and dual-credit options. According to Anne Kamps, dean of learning solutions at NWTC, 20.4 percent of Algoma students, 30.52 percent of L-C students and 32.53 percent of Kewaunee students enrolled at NWTC after graduating from high school in the 2010-11 school year.

Benefiting the community

Not just high school students can benefit from school districts having CNC equipment in their hallways.

Algoma School District has provided opportunities to local businesses to train or certify their workers in their lab. Members of the community who are in the field and are looking to update their skill set or learn a new one are also welcome to take classes, at no charge.

“I think that schools should be open all the time,” Cochart said. “If someone needs some education or help, we should strive to be that resource.”

NWTC classes hosted at Algoma High School are also open to the public, but they would have to pay for the credit hours.

Students in Algoma have also created their own business, called Algoma Wolf Tech (AWT), in partnership with Precision Machine, Olsen Fabrication and CTI Hospitality where they do subcontracting work. The 25 to 40 students involved with AWT design and create products for people or businesses in the community such as the city of Algoma and Algoma Long Term Care.

“It is a very diverse group of students involved, which makes it really interesting,” Cochart said. “Machinists, fabricators, accountants, marketers and designers all have a part.”

At Luxemburg-Casco, educators have found people and businesses in the community have different needs for CNC products.

“We created the lettering for the Kewaunee County Rescue Boat, vinyl stickers for windows and plenty of laser engraving. And we do it voluntarily,” Vandermause said. “The only way we would ask for money is if the materials cost was high.”

Kewaunee High School’s CNC program is still in its infancy, but they are focused on making more courses transcribed for NWTC at this time.

“We want to create opportunities for our students to earn dual credits,” Holz said. “The CNC courses are currently based on in-school projects, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t have the opportunity to partner with local businesses as the program unfolds. We are very open to investigate those possibilities, but we want to lay down our educational foundation.”



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