A team of five students from Warhill’s Computer Integrated Manufacturing class was one of two groups from Virginia to be invited to participate in “Today’s Innovation, Tomorrow’s Career Success.”
Wodbridge High School in Prince William County also participated in the event.
Sponsored by the Association for Career and Technical Education and Project Lead the Way, the event brought together teams of outstanding high school students from across the country who participate in career and technical education programs.
The event – and Warhill’s participation – were motivated by another occasion currently going on in high schools across the country. February is career and technical education month, and ACTE and PLTW organized the event in Washington to promote CTE as a rising field in education.
Warhill Principal Jeffrey Carroll said the school has grown its CTE offerings in recent years to match the changing needs of the 21st century workforce.
“A lot of people are unfamiliar with career and technical education in the 21st century,” he said. “[You] think of CTE, and you think of wood shop.”
The reality, Carroll said, is CTE students learn valuable skills in the classroom that can be applied in the real world. In a CTE class at Warhill, students can learn about computer design, biotechnology, engineering and biomedical sciences – all of which is in growing demand in a changing economy.
The five Warhill students – Cole Herndon, Lauren Dansereau, Malissa Reyes, Justin Bradley, and Chad Herndon – put those skills on display for their trip to Washington on Feb 3.
As part of the event, the Warhill team had to craft a project that incorporated the essential elements of CTE and solved a real-world problem.
John Aughenbaugh said the team’s inspiration for the project came from interactions with local businesses in the Historic Triangle.
“We started by augmenting an existing project,” Aughenbaugh said. “We went to Ball Metal [which has a branch in Williamsburg]. We’d been there before for Manufacturing Day for the last three years in a row. We got feedback from them and learned about their needs for automation and manufacturing.”
The result was a project that required automation, robotics and machining. Aughenbaugh said companies like Ball need more automated capacity to transport goods. The Warhill team crafted a robotic arm that could manipulate items into transport vehicles for shipping.
“It required a lot of programming and prototyping skills – all the parts of a real-world solution for smaller businesses,” Aughenbaugh said.
The design worked well in testing at Warhill, but Carroll said the display in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill posed a challenge for the team. While the floor in Warhill was tile, the office building was carpeted, potentially derailing the transportation device.
Carroll said the Warhill students stood up to the challenge and modified the machine to work in its new environment.
Several members of Congress stopped by to view the projects, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Aughenbaugh said they were impressed.
“It was an ambitious project,” he said. “It’s 100 percent student-led and designed.”
Carroll said Warhill’s CTE programming encourages that kind of initiative in students.
“One [of the five] students is not planning on going to a four-year school right away, but because of the skills he’s learned in our career and technical education courses, he’ll be a much more attractive candidate for companies. … He’ll be ready for college when it’s right for him.”
A student at Berkeley Middle School was honored for an essay she wrote on local government.
Sophie Freiling, a seventh-grade student at Berkeley, was one of eight regional winners selected in the Virginia Municipal League’s “If I Were Mayor” contest.
In her essay, Freiling discussed ways to improve the City of Williamsburg’s economy, public health and Williamsburg-James City County Schools’ fourth middle school.
“After living in Williamsburg my whole life, if I were mayor some of the key issues I would address are the struggling tourism economy, the need for an additional middle school, the cost of healthcare for the city and local businesses, and transportation,” Freiling wrote in her essay.
As one of the eight regional winners, Freiling met with Gov. Terry McAuliffe during the VML Day at the state capitol in Richmond.