Suck, press, bang, blow. A turbine engine in the flesh.

This past Monday, I judged at the Careertech 2012 State Conference. All over Oklahoma, students were competing in their career fields–carpentry, cosmetology, electronics, plumbing, and culinary. (Just to name a few.) A day long challenge to test their skills against their peers. Winners earning the esteemed privilege to compete nationally. Interestingly enough, I was asked to oversee the Aircraft Maintenance Techs (AMTS-in-training) at the turbine identification station. (Hence the picture above.) Each contestant had fifteen minutes to identify twenty numbered parts of a turbine engine.

As the heated competition progressed, I had the opportunity to talk to the students ranging from 18-35 years old, recruited from local high schools, civil air patrol, military, and even the QuikTrip on the corner. Also, many of the applicants had taken advantage of the tech school’s opportunity to attend classes while still enrolled in high school.

Looking around the state-of-the-art lab, I considered what a leg up the kids had who decided to take all their fundamental engine, wiring and structural classes before they even graduated high school. My mind drifted back to the 80’s. Top Gun, Flock of Seagulls, Daytona Beach, Embry-Riddle, first semester, reciprocating engines class. Shear terror. (At that time, I barely knew how to put gas in my car.) And wondered how different (and less stressful) my curriculum might have been with the chance to participate in the program offered by a professional tech school. (Even if it meant taking a year off between high school and college. Ahhhh, oh my!)

*Note to self: If you really don’t understand something–especially something technical–take the time, go to the edge of the earth if you must. Find a way to figure it out. (Because it doesn’t get any easier.)

*Note to parents:  Don’t be nervous if your son/daughter comes home and says “I want to take shop class at this tech school”.

*Follow-up note to parents:  Although AP and IB credits are important, taking the time to understand hands on skills, how to build and the intricacies of how things we use everyday work, can be just as valuable. After all, the best way to innovate, is to have intimate knowledge of the fundamentals.

E.L Chappel author of Risk/Spirit Dance

Discovering that “Grease Lighting” shop programs have evolved.

aka The Glamorous Wife