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Students in at least five of the program areas at the Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center will get firsthand experience with the real world engineering and manufacturing process and take advantage of the result of their effort under a new project school officials hope to start by the 2016-2017 school year. Superintendent Mike McDaniel told the Career Center Board of Education at its meeting Jan. 14 that officials are finalizing plans for a formula race car project in which students from several Career Center programs will combine their skills with industry project management principles, tools and techniques to build and race two formula race cars.
The project is being patterned after a program in Wisconsin in which students who were interested in motorsports, engineering and technology where given a realistic outlet to showcase their skills and talents through building cars that closely resembled SCCA Formula First race cars. The Career Center plans to replicate and improve on the Wisconsin program and have its junior class build a 16 horsepower formula stock car while the senior class will build a more complex 30 horsepower formula prototype car. McDaniel said Career Center teachers have been working with Wisconsin high school teachers to learn how to implement the project.
"In 2006 we had a project to build a Bucket-T hot rod that won awards and the students were very proud of, but it took too long (four years) and cost too much and none of the students got to sit behind the wheel, drive it and enjoy it like I think they should," McDaniel said. He noted the Wisconsin race cars were completed within one school year.
Under the Career Center race car project, students will develop designs for the cars while adhering to a set of strict specifications and build the race cars to those qualifications, on schedule, within budget and in cooperation with others. The program will initially involve students in the Manufacturing, Engineering and Design, Auto Body, Auto Tech and Graphics programs. The superintendent, principal, district treasurer and two industry financial sponsors will serve as the customer/client team. Volunteer project managers from local businesses will provide guidance, advice and support for the students throughout the project.
"The students will actually get to drive the car they helped build, that's their big payoff," said McDaniel. The school has made arrangements with the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington to allow students who have contributed to the construction of the vehicles, are in good standing and who have successfully completed ground school and safety training to drive the vehicle for at least three timed laps around the track. Officials also are working to arrange a national competition with participating formula high school race car programs in Wisconsin and Indiana.
McDaniel discovered the race car concept during a rural school conference last October at the same time he was continuing discussions with area industry about addressing work force training needs. He said a number of industries indicated that credentialing skill proficiency is important, but not their only priority. Employees need to have a higher understanding of how their job assignments fit into the larger picture of how things get done and they need to be able to contribute at a higher level to the overall process.
"As we have had conversations with the employers for more than two years, one of the things we have learned is that we need to emulate more of a business operations model in our programs," McDaniel said. "They (employers) really believe we already do a good job -- that a lot of what we're doing is right and effective -- but they want to see something at an even higher level in terms of how things really get done by individuals and teams in organizations. What we refer to as project management skills seemed to resonate with these employers. Working between different programs with different skills sets, personalities and priorities while designing and building a race car that they get to drive will give our students an opportunity to learn and apply employability skills such as creative thinking, problem solving, organizational, marketing, communications and interpersonal skills at a higher level than ever before. Their car's success will depend on it. That's their motivation."
Three companies have already given verbal commitments as sponsors for the formula high school race car project -- LuK, Pride of the Hills and ArtiFlex. The school is seeking a total of $12,000 in business sponsorships that include badge signage for a small donation and an opportunity for side, tail and hood signage as well as full signage for larger donations.
"The excitement of the business community over this project is off the charts and it's not because it's a race car, although that's very appealing in itself. It's the fact we're implementing this project management concept within the whole process," McDaniel said. He added the Career Center is hoping to be the Ohio headquarters to bring the concept of building race cars utilizing project management principles and skills to other career centers.
In other business, the Career Center Board of Education:
-- Authorized the superintendent to negotiate a contract with OHM Advisors of Gahanna for design services to remodel existing space for the combined lab for the Manufacturing and Engineering Design programs.
-- Approved a contract not to exceed $119,000 with CCG Automation of Richfield for a new rooftop heating and cooling unit for the new lab.
-- Heard a brief report on the new Aviation Club and its twice per month schedule of programs that include aviation mechanics, electronics, engineering and weather and a trip to the control tower at Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland.
-- Heard about the Career Center's choir beginning this year.
-- Approved the tax planning budget for fiscal 2017, which begins July 1.
-- Elected Mapleton School District representative Tom Donley as president and Tri-County Educational Service Center representative Jim Bargar as vice president during the board's organizational meeting.
-- Agreed to continue to hold regular meetings at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month in the board room.
-- Approved a 2016-2017 school year calendar that calls for classes to begin Aug. 22, 2016 and the last day of classes to be held May 30, 2017.