techdirections January 2013 : Page 13
Middle School Girls Sample ‘Hard Hat’ Life at Construction Camp By Aneeta Brown email@example.com O N a Monday morning in July, a fan as tall as a refrigerator churned noisily in the cavernous classroom. As the out-door temperature crept higher, teen-age girls wearing hardhats and safety glasses wiped perspiration and sawdust from their faces. This was not a ﬁeld trip. This was the second hour of camp at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis, MO. Camps like this are a great way to get girls inter-ested in technical ﬁelds, so I thought the experience of the girls—and the instructors who worked with them— would be of interest to Tech Direc-tions readers. Real ‘World of Work’ Experience “It would be nice to have air con-ditioning,” casually remarked the instructor, as he penciled a cut mark on a 2 = 4. “But when you work in construction, you don’t always get to work in comfortable places.” Then he Aneeta Brown is a freelance writer, Washington, MO. that terrify my generation. On the got down to business, saying, “Now, other hand, they haven’t changed who wants to build a wall? You’ll a light bulb. If you look at the Baby need your drills and 3" screws. Get a Boomers, we are retiring—and will bottle of water from the ice chest and follow me.” The girls involved, who attend public and private middle schools during the academic year, had all enrolled in Con-struction Zone: Females Working, a ﬁve-day “Ad-venture Camp” at Ran-ken. Before arriving on campus, some had never used a hammer, and most had never touched a battery-powered drill. But by Friday afternoon, they were expected to com-plete a 64 sq. ft. one-room “house,” including electri-cal work and plumbing. Discussing the motiva-tion behind the creation of Adventure Camps, Stan Shoun, Ranken’s presi-dent, said, “This millen-nium generation can do Drills, hammers, and tape measures were all things with computers required to assemble the walls. www.techdirections.com CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION 13 Photos by Aneeta Brown
Middle School Girls Sample ‘Hard Hat’ Life at Construction Camp
<br /> ON a Monday morning in July, a fan as tall as a refrigerator churned noisily in the cavernous classroom. As the outdoor temperature crept higher, teenage girls wearing hardhats and safety glasses wiped perspiration and sawdust from their faces. This was not a field trip. This was the second hour of camp at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis, MO. Camps like this are a great way to get girls interested in technical fields, so I thought the experience of the girls—and the instructors who worked with them— would be of interest to Tech Directions readers.<br /> <br /> Real ‘World of Work’ Experience<br /> “It would be nice to have air conditioning,” casually remarked the instructor, as he penciled a cut mark on a 2 ?? 4. “But when you work in construction, you don’t always get to work in comfortable places.” Then he got down to business, saying, “Now, who wants to build a wall? You’ll need your drills and 3" screws. Get a bottle of water from the ice chest and follow me.”<br /> <br /> The girls involved, who attend public and private middle schools during the academic year, had all enrolled in Construction Zone: Females Working, a five-day “Adventure Camp” at Ranken. Before arriving on campus, some had never used a hammer, and most had never touched a battery-powered drill. But by Friday afternoon, they were expected to complete a 64 sq. ft. one-room “house,” including electrical work and plumbing.<br /> <br /> Discussing the motivation behind the creation of Adventure Camps, Stan Shoun, Ranken’s president, said, “This millennium generation can do things with computers that terrify my generation. On the other hand, they haven’t changed a light bulb. If you look at the Baby Boomers, we are retiring—and will be for the next 15 years or so—-but we’re not grooming anyone to come behind us. We don’t have enough young people interested in the kind of technology that manufacturing needs. That’s why I started the Adventure Camps—to expose middle schoolers to science, technology, engineering, and math.”<br /> <br /> Shoun has a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering, is retired from the U.S. Navy, and previously served as vice president of workforce development at Central Virginia Community College (CVCC), in Lynchburg. Shoun started his first Adventure Camp at CVCC in 2002. (Camp enrollment in the CVCC program increased from six students the first year to 400 last summer.)<br /> <br /> At the Construction Zone camp, Ranken allowed the middle school students to use the same equipment that college students use. Safety was not just mentioned but mandated. Campers and their parents understood that refusal to follow class safety instructions was grounds for immediate dismissal from camp. The girls in Construction Zone, for example, learned how to safely use three kinds of saws: mitre, hand, and jig, all under the close supervision of instructor Jeffery Scott and assistant instructor Mark Malcinski.<br /> <br /> The men are Ranken graduates who teach full time in the Industrial Technology Department. Scott was the recipient of Ranken’s 2011 Distinguished Young Alumnus Award. The award recognized, among other accomplishments, his contributions to successfully building 16 houses in 16 days for Habitat for Humanity’s Blitz Build.<br /> <br /> Malcinski earned certificates in electricity and carpentry/ construction from Ranken and is the father of two sons. But he says of his Construction Zone experience that teaching construction skills to middle school girls is not much different than teaching the college students he works with. “An exception would be if a girl’s hands are smaller than the hands of an 18-year-old guy,” he said. “Then I might have to make a tool adjustment. In any group of teenagers I’ve taught, I see about the same behaviors. A couple of students will jump in and do anything you ask, and a couple will stand back a bit and aren’t quite as eager to learn.”<br /> <br /> Supporting Scott and Malcinski were four female staff members from Ranken’s administrative offices. They volunteered (without a loss of pay) to leave their desk jobs for a week and help supervise the girls taking part in Construction Zone. The volunteer assistants described their experience as very rewarding. Erica Ellard, director of Ranken’s Student Achievement Center, said that observing Ranken teachers in action was an enlightening experience for her, and one that is generally not available to the administrative staff. “I learned some construction skills right along with the kids,” added Pariss Reese from the Registrar’s Office. “I absolutely would sign up to work at camp again.”<br /> <br /> All week long, the girls asked questions. One of the most urgent came on the first day: “What’s the most dangerous piece of equipment we’ll use here?”<br /> <br /> “A torch,” said Scott. “But we’ll do that later in the week.” When the highly anticipated “torch day” arrived, the girls first watched an instructional video in a briefing room, and then listened to Scott’s warning that unlike some metals, copper doesn’t turn red under high heat. “When you’re finished soldering, don’t touch the pipe,” he cautioned. “I’ll take it out of the vise with a wrench and you’ll follow me over to the sink where we’ll cool it. Let’s go back to the shop now and you’ll each get a chance to cut your own copper pieces and solder them. Mr. Malcinski and I will show you how.” The pipes, which carried clean water from a city supply line, became part of the sink installation the next day.<br /> <br /> One tool was used every day and presented the most difficulty: the battery operated drill. Most of the girls at first struggled with the weight and shape of the drills they worked with. While attempting to sink a screw into a 2 ?? 4 pine stud, for example, the drill tip slipped off the screw heads many times. They found the task even more difficult when kneeling or sitting on the concrete floor to assemble the studs in the wall braces.<br /> <br /> Scott was in motion six hours a day, measuring, lifting, hauling, demonstrating, discussing, encouraging, supervising, and being highly vigilant regarding the personal safety of each young camper. He also insisted that the girls use the correct technical terminology during the week. “We just installed this under the floor,” he’d say, holding up a part for identification. “What is this?” One girl’s hand shot up. “A yellow thingy!” He laughed, but another camper correctly intervened, identifying the part as “a plastic bracket to hold wires.”<br /> <br /> Signs of Success<br /> Several of the campers’ parents expressed praise for the experience their daughters had. Ray Jones said his daughter talked about camp every night at home. “We have basic tools at our house, but Ga’Nea never wanted to use them,” he said. “I have a feeling she will now. She’s even using technical terms like ‘sweating’ a pipe. And she was proud of how dirty she got working at camp.”<br /> <br /> Ga’Nea was one of the girls who had volunteered to shimmy under the house platform, which rose 18" from the floor. She and four others worked in relative darkness attaching plastic brackets to the floor joists and then threading electrical wire through them. Afterwards, Scott demonstrated how to wire an electric light switch. In his hands, the job looked relatively easy, so the girls were surprised and impressed by how much dexterity the exercise required. They also learned very quickly that teamwork on a construction site pays high dividends and were soon teaching each other where to connect the wires.<br /> <br /> Another parent, Beverly Brandt, remarked, “Our daughter Korinna had a great feeling of accomplishment. My husband’s an engineer at Boeing, and every night during camp, Korinna talked to her dad about the things she learned that day.”<br /> <br /> And feedback from the campers themselves was encouraging. Dominique Navalta, age 12, said of her experience, “I really enjoyed it, but it was harder than I thought it would be. I learned a lot and helped my dad and sister build a tree house after camp was over. When we put up the walls, I had some ideas about how to do it.” Dominique’s sister Kristi also attended the camp. After assisting Scott with a ceiling fan installation, Kristi decided their tree house needed a ceiling fan.<br /> <br /> Abbigale Gentles planned to use her tape measure and hammer, and maybe her dad’s drill, to decorate her bedroom. She said she learned more than she expected. When the campers were told that their completed “house” would eventually be torn down so the materials could be recycled for college construction classes in college, she said everyone felt wistful.<br /> <br /> Community Support<br /> Materials for the house project, including the tools the campers used, cost approximately $1,500. And the $95 camper fee didn’t begin to cover instructional expenses. “We offered nine middle school camps this year, and we couldn’t have operated them without our partnerships with industry,” said Shoun. Some gave materials, others gave equipment or cash.<br /> <br /> Grainger, a distributor of industrial supplies, donated $20,000, and the Kiwanis Club in Bridgeton, MO, sent $750 for scholarships. As a gift for the Construction Zone girls to use at camp and then take home, Tomboy Tools of Denver, CO, donated hammers, tape measures, carpenter’s pencils, and tool aprons. Completing the tool set were screwdrivers from Nu Way Concrete Company of St. Louis. Throughout the year, Ranken’s Institutional Advancement Office invests time in coordinating industry donations for the camp.<br /> <br /> In addition to community support, support for the camp is strong among Ranken’s staff members. According to Don Pohl, vice president for education, who serves as director of all of Ranken’s Adventure Camps, more than 50% of Ranken employees directly or indirectly participate in the camp program. “The faculty isn’t paid extra to teach camp,” he said. “It’s a lot of preparation and, frankly, most of the instructors are exhausted by the end of the week. But camp renews their faith in today’s youth. By teaching middle schoolers, the instructors are better prepared for their future students. Some of them see some bright kids who are very interested in technical subjects. And after spending a week with young teenagers, some of our faculty appreciate more than ever the returning college students in the fall.”<br /> <br /> Since its founding in 1907, Ranken has trained thousands of students for technical careers. Study programs are now organized in five divisions: automotive, construction, electrical, information technology, and manufacturing. The private college awards certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees.<br /> <br /> In addition to Construction Zone, the college offers a number of other summer camps designed to get both boys and girls interested STEM fields. Recent additional offerings for middle schoolers included All-A-Bot Robots, Website Design, Welding—Heavy Metals, Wheelie Cars—Designed to Drive, and Wood Works. Camps for high school students included Airbrushing—Paint FX, Boot-up Computer Camp, Video Game Design—Gaming Gurus, Welding— Heavy Metals, NASCAR Race Engineering, and TETRIX Robotics Technology.<br /> <br /> For more information on the Adventure Camp programs, contact Barbara Bragg, STEM Pathways coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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