SIDNEY — Members of the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) Board of Education on Wednesday heard from instructors and students representing a few key Montcalm Area Career Center (MACC) programs. Some of those programs have shown impressive academic gains during the past school year.
MACC engineering instructor Art Ward gave a brief outline of some of the projects currently underway in his program, including a competitive electric car contest. According to Ward, 23 students have between them built four electric vehicles which will take part in an area contest of May 2 and 16.
“We go over to Berlin Raceway and race four races; two on the second and two on the 16th,” Ward said. “The contest is to see how long you can go on 24 volts. Every year it’s getting more and more fun, because the kids keep coming up with great ideas.”
Much of the cost of the electric car project is covered by sponsors the students enlist themselves. The project provides practical application of both physics and engineering, Ward added.
“This is an inexpensive way for us to compete and the kids really have a good time with it,” Ward said. “We have pit crews and everything just like a real race team. It’s not until the end of the year when (the students) take their tests that they realize just what they’ve learned.”
Ward also noted that other school systems have begun to follow MACC’s lead and instituted similar engineering programs.
Not all projects provide such glowing results, however, Ward admitted. A robotic project, in which students were charged with building hazardous waste removal robots, didn’t result in a truly viable end product.
The robot grippers were created on a 3-D printer, but wound up not working as planned. This still provided a learning experience, though, Ward stressed, and that is the most important goal.
“It’s not always about getting the right answer,” Ward said. “It’s about learning and that’s what we have going on in engineering.”
The engineering classes also created workable trebuchets (a device similar to a catapult) earlier this year; students are currently working on building scale model bridges, which, when finished, will be “smashed” to determine tensile strength and other factors.
Doni Simon, MACC health science instructor, detailed some of the activities in which her students have taken part this school year. One of the highlights for students considering a career on medicine was the opportunity to actually work on a human cadaver.
Simon noted that MACC students were lucky inasmuch as there is a great deal of cooperation between the career center and county medical facilities. Later this month, several students will take part in job shadowing and work training programs at area hospitals and clinic and learn critical skills while doing so.
“It’s a wonderful program that helps students provide for themselves while they go to college,” Simon said. “We are very fortunate here at the MACC that we have the support of all the hospitals and EMS (Emergency Medical Services).”
Finally, Special Education Supervisor Derek Cooley brought the board up to speed on the ongoing cooperative effort between Spectrum Health and the district. Though still in the “working out the bugs” phase, the program, which provides nurses and other health practitioners to area schools, has proven to be a success, both in terms of meeting student needs and working within budgetary constraints.
By allocating some care for special needs students to health care workers, teachers are free to spend more time concentrating on academic goals.
“The most important statement I hear from teachers is (they) have more time to teach,” Cooley said. “The partnership has been wonderful and the nurses are very passionate about working with the kids. When I hear that from teachers, I get excited, because teaching is what they should be doing.”The board then went into closed session to discuss the evaluation of MAISD Superintendent Scott Koenigsknecht.
The board meets next April 9.