SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — TechForce Foundation and the Arizona Science Center teamed up recently for a CREATE event to foster future automotive technicians.
The event, held at the science center, showcased projects created by Phoenix's Estrella Middle School students who participated in a 12-week after-school program called "CREATE U/TechForce Foundation Transportation Challenge."
The concept was created by Greg Settle, TechForce director of national initiatives, and Tim Dwyer, education specialist at ConsuLab Educatech Inc.
Industry volunteers from the ASE Training Managers Council (ATMC) built 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 guests from the community and the transportation industry.
"The Transportation Challenge is an initiative directly related to our FutureTech Success Campaign," said Jennifer Maher, CEO/executive director of TechForce. "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," Mr. Maher said.
"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."
One team was challenged with a crash test, tasked with engineering a two-axle vehicle that would protect an egg in the event of a frontal impact. Another team was challenged with engineering a working turbocharger for the compression of intake air into an internal combustion engine while another team was challenged with building a planetary gear set using a fixed-speed electric motor that would move a fixed weight a certain distance.
"This program focused on students' being able to use their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills to work on applicable, vehicle-related interests," Mr. Settle said.
"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," he said.
"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," Mr. Dwyer added.
The Transportation Challenge program was underwritten by General Motors Co., Nissan North America Inc., Advance Auto Parts, Snap-on Inc. and Universal Technical Institute. It will continue at CREATE at the Arizona Science Center in 2018 with new teams and new projects to be announced at a later date.