Technology and learning go hand in hand at Franklin County school

January 21, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Dan Calimer says the software program he used to design a bridge saved him three hours worth of calculating the angles of trusses by hand.

"It'll tell you which bars are the compressions and how much they can take," Calimer said.

A digital truck even rolls across the bridge on his computer screen at the Franklin County Career Technology Center.

Calimer, 18, ended his final semester at the career center last week. The remainder of his 2007-08 school year will be spent in academic classes at Waynesboro Area Senior High School, his home school, from which he plans to graduate in five months.

Calimer did two years in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) program at the career center, then transferred into pre-engineering this fall. When he finished his HVAC studies, Calimer obtained his Section 608 and MVAC certifications from the Environmental Protection Agency.

He hopes the engineering studies will allow him to design air-conditioning systems.


Several proposals remain on the table to determine the future ownership and control of the career center. They could affect which students are accepted at the school and how those teenagers receive academic instruction.

For Calimer, the past semester's daily schedule involved arriving in the morning at Waynesboro Area Senior High School with the rest of its students. Calimer and his career center classmates boarded two buses bound for Chambersburg.

At the career center, the Waynesboro youths are joined by those from Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Fannett-Metal, Greencastle-Antrim and Tuscarora school districts. Gettysburg Area School District has been in talks to send students in the coming school year.

Some of the eight pre-engineering students started their day Wednesday in math class at the career center, while the others prepared for finals.

Calimer reviewed his projects, including one that ran marbles through a combination of the six simple machines and another that made a children's puzzle cube. He listened to classmates present their bridge projects, which involved building the best, yet least expensive, bridge.

"We had a little competition to see who could build the cheapest bridge," Calimer said. The software program ran load tests and calculated costs of materials, he said.

Calimer used hollow tubes to further reduce his cost. The load abilities of the bridge are determined, in large part, by finding the sines and cosines of the truss angles.

"The math requirements for pre-engineering are pretty high," Calimer said. "There are certain expectations to come up (to the career center). You've got to have good grades, and you can't have a huge disciplinary record."

Shawn Eckenrode, one of the pre-engineering instructors, said the career center utilizes Project Lead the Way, which originated in Upstate New York. Five of the program's eight high school courses are offered for students.

"There's a middle school program, but we haven't been able to get the home schools to do that with us," Eckenrode said.

One of the nice aspects of the career center is camaraderie, Calimer said.

"All the shops help each other out," Calimer said. That includes borrowing wood from the carpentry program or fixing a cash register for the marketing students, he said.

In a shop not far from pre-engineering on Wednesday, electrical occupations students from several school districts were comparing their wiring skills to those of student Blake Seilhamer. They egged each other on as Seilhamer further improved his work for the upcoming Skills USA vocational competition.

Calimer said he has recommended the career center to underclassmen.

"I tell them they can come up here for more hands-on than the home school. This place is great," Calimer said.

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