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Academy igniting interest in industry

March 18, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Sparks form metal and job opportunities at the Washington County Public School System's Manufacturing Academy at Williamsport High School.

In Williamsport High teacher Jim Prelog's Manufacturing Academy class, students cut, weld and shape everything from levels to car safety stands.

He said the academy's three students have an advantage over many of their peers because they have the option of joining either the manufacturing work force or attending college after getting their high school diplomas.

Prelog started the academy three years ago after local manufacturing industries such as Mack Trucks and Apparatus Repair and Engineering expressed interest in the development of a training ground for their businesses.

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Members of such businesses, as with the other four school system academies, serve on an advisory board that helps decide who gets accepted into the academy and what skills will be taught.

Since the academy's debut, Prelog has collected tools and machines virtually unused in other county high schools for the Williamsport High shop, he said.

"We really started emphasizing metalworking," he said.

In addition to working hands-on in the shop, students do a senior year internship and take classes in business math, business English and computer-aided design and manufacturing, Prelog said.

"Some have an interest in cars and this helps bring them into that," he said.

Students are assigned to make a toolbox, a center punch and a car stand, which are all tools they can use once they're made, Prelog said.

He said that after they complete the required assignments, they can design and make what they want.

Academy member Derek Artz, 17, said he plans to make a trailer for his four-wheel drive vehicle as his end-of-year project. He said he's been designing the trailer in his computer class.

"I joined to keep my options open because I want to go into the Air Force, but if I don't get in, I'll have something to fall back on," he said.

Artz said he plans to study mechanical engineering or civil engineering while in the military.

"I like tearing things apart and putting them back together again just to see how it works," he said. "Sometimes I'm not successful."

The other four academies include the Pre-engineering/CADD Academy, based at Washington County Technical High School; Academy of Finance, South Hagerstown High School; Academy of Medical Careers, North Hagerstown High School; and Washington County Fire and Rescue Training Program, Washington County Technical High School.

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