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 Students will get hands-on experience through the new mechatronics and welding courses at Roseville High School that are offered to prepare them for careers in those fields.

Students will get hands-on experience through the new mechatronics and welding courses at Roseville High School that are offered to prepare them for careers in those fields.

Photo provided by Joe Genest


Roseville High School adds two new career tech courses

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 24, 2020

 Roseville High School will be offering two new career tech options — mechatronics and welding — in the upcoming fall semester.

Roseville High School will be offering two new career tech options — mechatronics and welding — in the upcoming fall semester.

Photo provided by Bob Smitka

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ROSEVILLE — Roseville High School will be adding two new options to its career tech program in order to provide students with more career options to explore.

The two classes are a mechatronics course and a welding course. They will join the school’s existing career tech programs, which include accounting, culinary arts, web design and woodworking.

“The administrative team looked at the career tech education offerings that were ratified by the county in terms of hireability, and we looked at our own offerings to see where we stood,” said Roseville High School Principal Pat Adams. “We saw mechatronics and welding as two on that list that we didn’t offer yet.”

Career tech courses are designed to teach a specific skill or set of skills through hands-on training in order to give students the necessary knowledge to move into that field upon entering the workforce.

“The career tech courses are hands-on courses. Instead of engaging in written learning, this is learning by doing,” Adams explained. “They are involving the student physically. Career tech courses follow the industry, so you want to be teaching students areas of expertise, which employers are searching for. In recent years, skilled trades have a glaring need to be filled. There weren’t enough people going into those trades, so we wanted to give students the opportunity to be able to be one of those individuals able to do so.”

The classes take place during the school day and do not cost anything extra to participate in.

Bob Smitka, the mechatronics instructor who was already at the school as the mentor of its robotics club, said that offering such resources to students gives them a head start and a better chance when considering possible career paths.

“I think the important portion of this is that we are taking this addition as a way for them to learn how to solve problems in a realistic way. It is being presented as a project-based learning environment,” said Smitka. “Out in the real world, we are not given the solution ahead of time. By doing a lab, we show students how to find solutions to unknown problems. They are given challenges, which they can use multiple things in that makerspace to respond to.”

The school already had facilities to accommodate both new programs.

“We already had a robotics club and had a robotics lab, and, in terms of welding, we had a great metal fabrication program and a teacher who was well versed in the area, so both of these subjects were good fits for the kids in our community,” Adams explained.

So far, 80 students have signed up for the mechatronics program.

“Mechatronics has, at its core, the goal to have students figure out a problem that a robot can solve. Whether that’s a task of loading, lifting, carrying or whatever else, the student’s job is to try and find out how to solve the problem with the robot,” said Adams. “This includes building the robot and ensuring the robot is programmed to be capable (of completing that task).”

The welding program has 60 students already signed up for it. They will attend the class in groups of 10-12.

“The welding program is based on kits, or mini-stations,” said Adams. “So we would have 10-12 stations where students would learn how to weld by starting with basic direction and the teacher being a mentor. Instead of them all working on the same things at once, each student would be working on their own kit independently.”

Smitka said this was largely made possible thanks to the technology bond Roseville voters approved for Roseville Community Schools in 2018.

“We were lucky enough to have the voters in Roseville approve a technology bond two years ago,” he said. “Because of that, we were able to outfit the school with a cutting edge makerspace. We repurposed the upper level of our unused media center and transformed the entire area. With that technology bond, we were able to outfit three spaces that will be utilized not just by our mechatronics course, but by our after-school Roseville Engineering Science and Technology team.”

Smitka said that a program such as mechatronics gives students opportunities they would never get from a traditional class.

“They might be given a challenge to create something for a teacher or the school. It benefits the whole idea of (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). All of those aspects are touched on in this course,” he said. “It is an amalgam of research and building and art. It’s more than just some tools. We have industrial sewing machines, vinyl cutters, programming equipment and an open building space. We want them to spread out and collaborate so they can solve problems like they would if they were working at a company like (General Motors).”

He added that the COVID-19 quarantine and many students potentially learning from home may pose significant challenges in implementing these classes in the first year, but he hopes to find some interesting solutions.

“Having to potentially teach this virtually presents a unique challenge,” said Smitka. “I may send them links to resources, such as online programs, such as Tinkercad, and then maybe 3D print it in the lab at the school. We might have some simulation resources that they can work with online so they can learn the basics of things like robotics.”

Adams stressed that the addition of these programs is the next logical step for the district.

“The school’s job is to serve the students and serve the community,” he remarked. “Each year we try to get better at fulfilling that mission. We ask what they need in their life, and we thought this would be a relevant experience that could benefit many of them in their lives.”

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