Revving their engines for learning

District 916 automotive classes create student spark

Students from the Northeast Metro Intermediate School District 916 Automotive Technology program pose for a photo by their two new donated Volkswagon Passats. The classes teach students a variety of things when it comes to car care and prepares them for pursuing a career in the automotive industry.

Students from the Northeast Metro Intermediate School District 916 Automotive Technology program pose for a photo by their two new donated Volkswagon Passats. The classes teach students a variety of things when it comes to car care and prepares them for pursuing a career in the automotive industry.

WHITE BEAR LAKE — For several years, metro area high schools students, including those from Stillwater Area High School, who choose to take classes through the 916 Northeast Metro Intermediate School district can opt to take some classes with Century College’s Automotive Technology program.

Auto classes for the 10 area districts include Auto Technology, Auto Dismantling and Diesel Trucks and Engine Technology and give students a well-rounded, hands-on classroom experience. The classes are accredited by the National Automotive Technician Education Foundation (NATEF) and allow junior and senior high school students to get certifications and possible college credit in the automotive career area.

The NATEF accreditation encourages companies to donate new vehicles as teaching tools to help students learn on the most up-to-date automobiles. The most recent donation came in the form of two brand new Volkswagon Passats.

“A lot of high schools dropped their auto programs due to money and that’s always been sort of the story,” said class instructor Pete Tennant. “For those who want to fix cars, there’s not a lot of places you can get it and if they have two years with me, they’re more advanced than someone who just walks up after high school and says ‘Teach me how to fix cars.’ ”

The class serves as a feeder program of sorts for Century College.

“Unlike a PSEO college class with college students, all the kids in these classes are high school students. They come from different districts as well, but the program allows them to have the advantages of the college campus and curriculum and gives them a head start if they hope to continue their education.”  said Northeast Metro 916 Manager/Principal Deanne DeGraff. “We aim to provide programs with a need in business or industry because we want kids to be able to get a job after they take the classes.”

Students in the class said they love its hands-on aspect.

“It’s better than school,” said Beau Schouveller of the Mounds View School District.

“Both parts of the curriculum change every year so you’re not taking the same stuff this year as you were last year.” said SAHS student Sam Thomson. “When you take an exit exam for each unit it gives you a certificate-type thing so you can be employed some place.”

Tennant’s goal is having students start at an entry-level job at an independent or dealership repair shop and work their way up.

The students said they’ve worked on a variety of areas during their class time. Topics covered include performance steering, suspension, transmission work, brakes, building circuits, electrical work and automatic steering. They added that they were starting to work with air conditioning and HVAC things as well. They also learn problem solving, especially when something goes wrong.

“Working on cars is good to know,” said Kevin Baumgartner from  North St. Paul High School. “If you’re interested in it you learn a lot every day and working on cars three times a week, at least in the mechanical field, helps you out a lot when you get out there.”

“You can work on your own personal vehicles here too, and you work with lots of different vehicles and companies.” added SAHS student Nick Bergdahl.
The variety of vehicles allows students to get familiar with each car company and learn how to serve customers in the future.

For Tennant, teaching the students is a rewarding experience.

“I love to see the spark in my students when they’ve fixed something, and fixed it right, and gotten my approval,” He said. “They’re high-fiving because they know they’ve done a good job.”

The students encouraged others who might be interested in taking the class to go for it.

“I really like the hands-on stuff and it can prepare you for the future,” Thomson said. “It’s a great experience of learning basic maintenance for your vehicle and it lets you be not totally dependent on a repair shop.”

For more information on this and other programs offered by 916 go to http://www.nemetro.k12.mn.us.

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