SANDPOINT — More and more emphasis is being placed on career-technical education, which provides students with hands-on skills to better prepare them for future careers.
As students learn more about these CTE programs, the more aware they are of the options out there. That's why Sandpoint High School has made hosting the North Idaho College CTE Roadshow an annual event, as Friday marked the third year of the event.
"The more exposure they have to it, the more likely they are to understand more each time they see it — what the careers will entail, and especially what the education would entail to gain the career," said Malia Meschko, event organizer and computer-aided design instructor at SHS.
NIC representatives travel to different schools each year to introduce the different CTE programs available at the college. Some of those programs include diesel mechanics, aerospace technology, carpentry and construction, computer-aided design and more. Friday's roadshow was attended throughout the day by students from SHS, as well as Priest River Lamanna High School, Clark Fork High School and Sandpoint Middle School.
For some students, the roadshow can help guide them on a career path. For others who know the area of study they plan to focus on, like SHS junior Angalee Smith, the roadshow also includes information on programs for just about any career. Smith said she plans to go into the medical field as a psychologist or surgeon. In the meantime, Smith was enjoying some of the hands-on activities available at the roadshow.
"I got to paint an imaginary car door, and that was super trippy — it was so cool," Smith said.
Smith was referring to a virtual reality paint simulation, which students got to try out courtesy of the NIC collision repair program.
Mike Huber has been in the collision repair program for three months and said the class does everything from painting to body repair, as well as some mild mechanical work. The students spend about a month learning to paint virtually before training on the real thing, he said, which is saving the college money in the long run. The college purchased the virtual reality paint sprayer for $25,000, and now in the second year of using it, NIC saved more than $6,000 in product last year, Huber said.
"Give it a few years and it will pay for itself," Huber said.
It is about 97 percent accurate compared to real-world application, he said. The one thing Huber said is not accurate is the weight of the gun, because paint levels will vary in real life, changing that weight constantly. The spray patterns, however, are exactly the same as in the real world, he said.
Cyrus Mimbs, a junior at SHS, said while it wasn't fully realistic, he didn't expect the the virtual reality painting to be as realistic as it was.
"Surprisingly, you can't really tell anything outside of it — you can only see what is going on in there," Mimbs said.
Mimbs said he found the roadshow interesting because he is currently taking a computer-aided design class and plans to go into an engineering field, though he has not chosen a specific career yet.
"It really showcases a lot of different careers," he said of the roadshow.
CTE can also foster lifelong learning and teaching. Dominic Acia, for example, is a student in the NIC computer-aided design program. Acia spent 12 years in the military in a nuclear power program, he said, which included two years of education that was "the most intense" schooling and training. While he received in-depth training on chemistry, thermodynamics, physics and more, he said it was very specific to nuclear power plants. Then, when he got out of the military, Acia said he started a business building race cars.
"I saw all these holes in the market where I felt like products could be improved or redesigned," he said. "I had a bunch of designs on paper or in my head, and I was hiring people to put them into the software system ... Well, my designs kept getting stolen."
Rather than continuing to rely on others, Acia decided to go to NIC in January 2016 for degrees in physics, education and mathematics, and is currently a half-semester into the computer-aided design program. He was talking to students about 3D printing and the program on Friday.
Alex Gray, SHS instructor and CTE coordinator for the Lake Pend Oreille School District, was one of the initial organizers of roadshow when it came to SHS in 2016. The idea, Gray said at the time, had come up during a conversation on an airplane. The goal was to bring hands-on experiences to the students, while also giving them an opportunity to meet with some of the instructors and students in the CTE programs. Since its inception, the roadshow has expanded to include new technology each year, such as the virtual reality painting.
"I think this is an awesome opportunity for our kids," Gray said as he looked around at the bustle of activity in the gymnasium on Friday. "And hats off to Malia Meschko who put this whole thing together — it would not be possible without her."
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.