Monday, September 21, 2015

Technology classes at Eaton Rapids Public High School

I saw three lathes of various sizes in the Eaton Rapids High School Metal Shop.  This one is  small but makes up for it by being photogenic.

Technology is the science of production.  Eaton Rapids continues to offer "Technology" courses because the School Board and the Superintendent both recognize that society needs people who can work with their hands and that, for some students, hands-on is their strongest "learning modality."

This anvil is used for both hot forming and cold riveting.
According to Bloomberg, 88% of public high schools still offer Career and Technical Education (aka, Vocational/Technical) courses. The difference is in the number of V/T credits the average student earns.  In 1982 the average student earned 4.6 V/T credits.  By 2009, fewer than 20% of high school students earned three or more V/T credits before graduation.

Mr Brantley apologized for the mess.  You can see by the barrels beneath the bench that them make a lot of chips here.  This lathe is much bigger than the blue one shown at the top.  Both are useful in teaching the fundamentals of machining.
To achieve an average of 4 V/T credits per student would require that 15% of the staff be dedicated to teaching V/T classes.  In Eaton Rapids, approximately 5% of the staff teaches traditional V/T "shop" classes.  If you added all the bits-and-pieces taught by other instructors, you might find another 5%.  Those classes would be in computer technologies, photography/digital/video technologies, fabric arts and so on. 

Extra curricular activities like float building, stage/set construction and FFA are not considered in this essay but are other high school affiliated activities that expose students to the "technology of production".

They have many press brakes for bending sheet metal.  "Metals I" is their high runner.
"Technology" classes are expensive.  The equipment is costly.  The insurance exposure is significant.  The classes require a large footprint.  School districts that offer strong "Technology" programs are districts that are well run from a financial standpoint.

One way the School District has been financially prudent is that it has been able to avoid most of the daffy curriculum fads that blow through the education community every three years.  Some of it is simple, tight-fisted financial conservatism.

Those old Bridgeports will run forever.  The shop has two.
It is similar to a fleet manager refusing to trade in his Dodge trucks for Fords on the promise of slightly lower cost-per-100K miles.  He knows that there many hidden costs that do not get captured, costs like his inventory of spare parts and retraining his mechanics.  He also knows that comparisons between the proven and the theoretical are almost always biased in favor of the theoretical.  He is unswayed by the greater creature-comforts and extra bells and whistles offered by the new Ford trucks.  Creature-comforts are not critical to the truck's "core mission".

This is one has a digital read-out.  Everything is manual, so they have to take up lash manually.
Another thing that Eaton Rapids has able to do is to leverage existing resources to meet many of the unfunded, governmental mandates.  Since about 80% of the cost of running a school district is "people",  "leveraging existing resources" usually comes down to good will between the administration and the employees.  That is demonstrated by a willingness by employees to be flexible and administration has reciprocated by refusal to "lard the ranks" of administration with drones.

Resistance spot welder
Most school districts in Michigan have been shrinking.  Part of it is due to economic conditions.  Michigan was hit hard by the long economic soft period.  Some of it is shifting demographics.  Some of it is due to private schools and charter schools competing for a shrinking pool of students. 

Eaton Rapids has been very aggressive at addressing legacy costs.  They have been quick to vacate buildings, to consolidate and restructure.  This has been painful for parents who favor neighborhood schools and it has been arduous for staff who must move buildings, rooms and grades taught.  But staying ahead of the cost curve has been instrumental in keeping the district solvent.

I am pretty sure this is a tubing bender.

The following Technology courses are listed in the 2015-2016 course catalog
  • Wood Technology (aka, Wood shop)
  • Wood Technology II
  • Small Engines 
  • Drafting Technology
  • Advanced Drafting
  • Metals Tech
  • Advanced Metals
  • Home Electrical I
  • Home Electrical II

Beyond that, Eaton Rapids School District has an agreement with Lansing Community College where college classes can be taken on the School District's dime.  The classes count as college credits and count toward high school graduation requirements.  Eaton Rapids also has a Cooperative Education program for students who are pursuing a Career Technical Education program.

The Middle School

The Eaton Rapids Middle School house 6th, 7th and 8th grade.  They also have a Technology department.  Most of their technology revolves around wood technologies.

They do some fun things integrating V/T with applied physics.  For example, they make vehicles powered by mouse traps or rubber bands.  They also do "egg drop" tests where raw eggs are secured in expanded polystyrene cups and dropped.  Students get to see, first hand, the effects of harnesses made of scotch tape, padding, packing peanuts, bubble-wrap "air bags", casting the egg in jello, etc.


  1. I'm glad to see at least some schools still have V/T, a LONG time ago we had welding, automotive, diesel engine and construction courses...

  2. That is wonderful! And there are great opportunities to teach kids practical examples why math is important in life.
    Not sure I believe the 88% stat- no evidence, just an impression from talking with folks over the years. Or maybe the reason the number is high is the inclusion of "computer skills" etc. - stuff that does not have the liability component of machining, carpentry, welding etc.
    Exposure to these types of endeavors at school becomes more important as the portion of parents who can teach these things to kids keeps shrinking.
    For some of the young, it could be a vital experience-creating is right at the core of being human.

  3. My older son in a high school freshman this year, and along with his regular courses he has enrolled in the trade school welding program. He starts slowly with one class per semester, by the time he graduates he will be a certified welder. I'm so glad our area offers these types of educational opportunities. The vocational school also offers electrician training, small engine repair, machinist training, nursing, and cooking classes.