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TechForce, Arizona Science Center inspire future techs with Transportation Challenge

Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 08:00
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A key to helping solve the qualified technician shortage in the automotive and diesel vehicle industry was demonstrated recently at a TechForce Foundation and Arizona Science Center event.

Held at CREATE in the Arizona Science Center, the event showcased projects created by Phoenix’s Estrella Middle School students who participated in a unique,12-week after-school program called “CREATE U/TechForce Foundation Transportation Challenge.”

The concept for the Challenge was created by Greg Settle, TechForce Director of National Initiatives and Tim Dwyer, Education Specialist at ConsuLab Educatech Inc. Under Dwyer’s direction, industry volunteers* from the ASE Training Manager’s Council (ATMC) then built out specific “challenge scenarios” that the students were able to choose from and execute. The goal was to help students solve real-world technical challenges that have been faced in the transportation industry. The Challenge concluded with students demonstrating their projects to their parents and a number of special guests from the community and the transportation industry.

Three Estrella Middle School (Phoenix) students, who may represent the next generation of techs, demonstrate their planetary gear set project at the recent TechForce Foundation/Arizona Science Center "Transportation Challenge.”

“The Transportation Challenge is an initiative directly related to our FutureTech Success® Campaign, said Jennifer Maher, CEO/Executive Director of TechForce and speaker at the event. “It speaks to our overarching purpose of connecting with and encouraging students to consider a transportation career by providing them with the tools and experiences to recognize and foster their ‘tactile intelligence.’

“If we’re going to solve the qualified technician shortage problem, we need to work at the grassroots level offering tangible and relevant experiences to adolescents as they start to think about their careers,” said Maher. “The Transportation Challenge had students working in teams learning real-life tasks — from lessons on structural engineering and material compatibility to the chemistry of atmospheric air and how it affects an engine — that usually are not offered in a traditional classroom.”

Driving home the point, Settle said, “This program focused on students being able to use their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills to work on applicable, vehicle-related interests. This early experience may prove to be the first step for students to pursue one of many rewarding transportation careers. I don’t know if every one of these students will pursue a transportation career, but I do know that after this experience they are a step closer if they choose to be.”

Tim Dwyer, who attended the event, concurred. “We feel we have to go back into the middle school and put self-discovery at the level where they’ll hopefully spark an interest in a career in the transportation industry and help solve some of the [tech shortage] problems we’re having right now.”

Leading up to the event, three student teams utilized their STEM skills by spending two-hours each week at CREATE at the Arizona Science Center where they had access to CNC machines, laser cutters, 3D printers and an entire woodworking shop to bring their transportation prototype to life. Industry experts served as coaches to provide real-world insight and training to the students.

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