Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Watsonville High students look to new courses to open up career

Noah Garcia examined the circuit board with his teammates last week in a Watsonville High School classroom.The task was to power a small LED light and measure the voltage, and around the room engaged students bent over boards, connecting wires, batteries and resisters.For the students in a new engineering course at Watsonville High School, the project was fun and the class is an opportunity to get a leg up in the competitive worlds of colleges and careers.

We're going to pick up that much more about engineering than everybody else,said Garcia, a 15-year-old sophomore who dreams of a career as a nuclear engineer in the Navy.Principles in Engineering is offered through the school's Engineering Technology Academy, one of the seven academies that center studies around career pathways. At Watsonville, students enroll in academies for their sophomore, junior and senior years.E-Tech, as the 2-year-old Engineering Technology Academy is more commonly known, offers courses in metal fabrication, green construction and engine repair. This year, two pre-engineering courses were introduced. Two more are scheduled to be added next year to complete implementation of a highly regarded curriculum developed by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit that aims to increase the technological skills of the nation's middle and high school students. Watsonville is the first school in Santa Cruz County to offer the program, which relies heavily on hands-on activities.Cheryl Romo, who teaches the other course, Introduction to Engineering Design, said students who complete all four classes can check a box on California State University applications, giving them an edge for acceptance in engineering programs.

Senior Leonel Valencia, 17, said the program is a good fit for his generation, born into "the era of new technology.So we need to embrace it, added Moises Gutierrez, also a 17-year-old senior.Diana Villanueva, 17, signed up, even though she's a senior at Pajaro Valley.Girls are not really into math and science. They don't see it as a useful tool in life, Villanueva said, explaining why boys have a more than 3-1 advantage in the class.But they're wrong, Villanueva said. She's been attracted to architecture for as long as she can remember, her interest nourished by watching homes being built. As an architectural engineer, she hopes to combine her love of math and art.Watsonville sophomore Antoinette Martin, 15, is less sure about which branch of engineering she'll pursue, but she has no doubt she's headed on the right career path.As soon as I heard about the class, I took the opportunity. Technology is changing so much, and engineering is part of the change process,Martin said.It's exciting, something new, kind of like a puzzle."

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