"No Money Blues"
by MICHAEL S. SZABO, Instructor Nordonia High School Macedonia, Ohio I am a teacher at Nordonia High School in Ohio with a degree in Technology Education from Kent State University. When I attended college, I learned state-of-the art technology and was primed with both knowledge and visions. Being a traditional woodworker at heart, it took a while to see the light. But after my experiences at Kent State, I no longer wanted to just sand boards but to really teach concepts that students could use in the 21st century -- robotics, CAD/CAM and CNC, laser technology and more. When I came to Nordonia to teach, I had great visions, but at the same time reality was setting in. I faced a very traditional program with decreasing enrollment, scattered machinery and lack of involvement from students. Thus, I began the first day with a very aggressive approach. I grouped students together, showed them pictures and told them of my dreams of a technology lab at the school. Not content with dreaming, I felt that, working together, the students and I could actually turn the idea into reality -- we could design and build, with help along the way, a technology lab for Nordonia High School. Here's how we did it. Building a Lab from Scratch The first phase of my program was for the drafting class to design and draw the blueprints for the new lab. Of course, before this could be done, I had to teach students what blueprints were and how to draw them. We then began designing workstations, modules and other furniture for the lab. We discussed such things as chair height, tabletop height and comfort. Without even realizing it, students were learning about ergonomics. After we made 3D models of the proposed lab, I brought our idea to the superintendent. He supported the idea and commended our enthusiasm but explained that our school, like many others, was having levy problems and that funding for my project would be limited. That did not discourage me because "where there is a will, there is a way." The next phase involved actual construction of the lab. When I came to Nordonia, there was a construction class that had built an 1,800 square-foot house, complete with shingles, drywall and wiring. We dismantled the entire house, saved what lumber we could and salvaged all other possible supplies. Students spent many weekends at school cleaning, painting and preparing the room itself for construction. With the salvaged lumber, we began to frame the modular workstations, partitions and enclosed workstations for our future technology lab. Industry Lends a Hand At this point, additional funding was needed to complete the construction. We drafted a letter and sent roughly 300 copies to area businesses, corporations and suppliers explaining what we were trying to accomplish and what we needed to implement this state-of-the-art lab. Companies such as 84 Lumber, Builder's Emporium and other suppliers were overwhelmingly generous by donating wood, drywall, paint and other essential supplies. We spent the majority of that first school year concentrating on constructing the students' modular workstations. Those participating received hands-on experience in drywall, formica, molding and general construction techniques. This in itself was a valuable learning experience. In addition, students put a part of themselves into the lab. As written on one wall, "built by students, for students." With most of the lab fairly complete, we set out to find funding for the equipment to furnish the lab. We went to the industrial side of the community and invited many guests into our lab to see what we were doing and what was still needed. Industry people stated that they wanted students who were trained for the workforce of the 21st century. Thus, it was logical that they would be willing to work hand in hand with us, and they did -- the donations started rolling in. My dream of teaching 21st century technology began to come true. Companies such as BF Goodrich, Royal Appliance and Texler Inc., just to name a few, made donations totaling an estimated $35,000. Public Exposure Helps Too Throughout its construction, the lab was featured in many major newspapers and local news broadcasts and has been called "the exemplary lab in Ohio." This exposure gave us an additional funding source. People read the articles and called to see what they could do to help. Some individuals even donated their labor in constructing the lab; others donated equipment and supplies. One call led to a funding source known as the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation. I was awarded a grant to purchase software and other supplies for the lab. This particular foundation has been extremely helpful and very generous. Another source of community support came from Cuyahoga Valley Vocational School. For our new lab, I designed an Exploration in Technology instructional program covering subjects like robotics, CAD/CAM and CNC, etc. Enthusiastically supportive of the format of my program, they indicated that my overview of various technology modules provided insight into areas that their own students could pursue in-depth at the vocational school. Thus, the school supplied a Pitsco wind tunnel, an Emco CNC lathe and also have future donations in mind. These donations brought our lab one step closer to its completion. One of our biggest contributors is SIMC Training Systems, an Ohio-based company that supplies educational equipment. This firm worked with me for many hours, demonstrating their equipment and even helping to install and teach proper operational procedures. Another supportive company is Pitsco; their kits and supplies for technology-education classes are first rate. Finally, educational products from Kelvin Electronics are extensively integrated into the instructional experiences of the lab. Without firms like these, I believe technology education in the high schools would be years behind. Learning in the New Lab Now that construction is finished, my Exploration in Technology curriculum is being used, fully exploiting the capabilities of our new lab.
Organization is key to exploration-oriented instructional programs. In each given module in my Exploration in Technology program, all the essential tools -- whether it be a book, computer disk or hammer -- are accessible to students. Step-by-step manuals are incorporated into all simulators and activities. The key to this program is self-paced learning. I also keep an individual notebook for each student, which includes quite a few testing, vocabulary and study-question student worksheets. Many hours were spent making a student's experience with each module smooth and enjoyable. I employ a ten-day rotation process in which students pair off and rotate together through various modules. Problem-solving activities are incorporated between the rotations. Mousetrap cars, eggs in space and pneumatic air structures are just a few examples of these activities. Accomplishments This is the first year the lab has been fully functional. Some highlights are: Enrollment of the class has nearly tripled and expectations for next year are even higher. The class itself has assumed a more positive connotation in the school. "It's just not shop anymore." No longer are only traditional shop students involved, but more college-bound technical students are attracted. I now have a program to offer to the entire student body. The experience of implementing the lab has been a very rewarding and exciting adventure, for both myself and the students. Again, I state to all technology teachers that it is great to have a lot of funding, but to all of those with the familiar "no money blues," I stress the importance of industry involvement. Employers want students trained for the 21st century workforce and are willing to put forth effort to accomplish this goal. Most important, if there is a will, there is a way. Mike Szabo is in his third year at Nordonia High School. The school's technology lab -- and the cooperative effort to build it -- has been featured in news reports. Szabo has been nominated for two awards: Ashland Oil Teacher Achievement Awards and Walt Disney American Teacher Awards. Companies mentioned: SIMC Training Systems, Toledo, Ohio Pitsco, Pittsburgh, Kan. Emco, Powell, Ohio Kelvin Electronics, Melville, N.Y.
This article originally appeared in the 06/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.