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Middle school students tour Washington County Technical High School

April 19, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Will McKinley, 3, shows off a dinosaur to Smithsburg Middle School students in an early childhood classroom at Washington County Technical High School. Middle school students visited various classrooms to see what the school has to offer.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Middle school might be a bit early for someone to decide on a career, but it’s not too early to begin exploring.

On Thursday, students from five county middle schools toured Washington County Technical High School, where they got a glimpse of courses ranging from cosmetology to carpentry, to computer game development and animation.

“We were named the most outstanding science and technology program in the state of Maryland last year,” Sally Irwin, the Project Lead the Way biomedical science teacher told a group of eighth-graders from Boonsboro Middle School. “This is for kids who are college-bound.”

Forensic anthropology and recombinant DNA research are just some of the technologies biomedical students learn, and they can earn college credits while in high school, Irwin said.

This year’s seniors already have earned more than $750,000 in scholarship money, she said.

For the computer-gaming program, juniors learn about the 16 components of computer games and produce games during their senior year.

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Seniors Justus Barger and Travis Tracey said they designed a game for the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Art of Video Games exhibit.

They also were filmed by the Smithsonian, so visitors can see them at the exhibit, they said.

F. Martin Nikirk, the computer-gaming program developer and teacher, said careers in the field can start at salaries of more than $60,000 a year. More students apply for the course than the 32 slots he has available for juniors and seniors, he said.

“It’s a good problem. ... We have plenty of students who want to come here,” Nikirk said.

The school also offers a number of advanced-placement courses and industry opportunities, he said.

Good grades, behavior and attendance are required of all applicants, Principal Jeffrey Stouffer told the visiting students.

Michael Jacobs, a Clear Spring High School junior who was conducting a tour for a group of middle-schoolers, said he first looked at the electrical construction course, but was advised his grades were good enough to be in pre-engineering.

Brian Tew, a Boonsboro High School junior also conducting the tour, is in the computer repair and networking program.

Both said they are college-bound.

“It’s the best choice I’ve ever made,” Jacobs said.

Tew said he liked the mix of academic and technical courses — and the lunches prepared by the culinary arts students are quite good.

Bobby Heavner, an eighth-grader at Boonsboro Middle School, said he wants to be an optometrist, and the school’s health occupations program would be a benefit.

Biomedical sciences sparked the interest of Smithsburg eighth-grader Alexis David, who said she wants to be in a profession that helps people. She also was impressed by the school’s scholarship figures.

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