WEST NEW YORK, N.J.—The auto shop class at Memorial High School in West New York was on the fast track to being eliminated when Ron Grosinger began teaching it in 2005.
The course offered a basic introduction to automotive mechanics, with too much memorization and the occasional turning of a wrench. Similar to many other shop classes across the country, student interest — in taking the course and in learning about auto repair in general — was dwindling.
"Shop classes have a bad impression surrounding them," Mr. Grosinger told Automotive News. "People say this cliché thing, 'I guess if they're not going to college, they can always do a trade,' like it's a step down.
"That couldn't be further from the truth," he says. "But that aura had taken its toll on this class."
Mr. Grosinger decided to overhaul the curriculum. In 2008, he introduced a major after-school project aimed at building student interest: converting a gasoline-powered 1990 Volkswagen Rabbit to an electric vehicle, at a time when EVs were still a relative novelty.
Since then, Mr. Grosinger has continued to transform the class — focusing on electric motors, emphasizing design and engineering and promoting hands-on learning. He's generated sustained student enrollment as well as approval from parents and school administrators.