Teachers step out of classroom to make lessons more relevant

When the engineers and project managers at Endress+Hauser used 3-D computer software to create metal tubes and panels from scratch, a Center Grove teacher saw an opportunity to better relate a lesson to her students.

Center Grove industrial technology teacher Courtney Rogge spent four days with workers at Endress+Hauser and Major Tool and Manufacturing learning about engineering and manufacturing careers. Her experiences will allow her to answer the repeated question from her students in the classroom: How will I ever use this in real life?

Three local educators are taking days out of school to job shadow at companies in central Indiana. The teachers can learn what professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, careers are doing in their everyday work, which they can use to better inform high school students about their potential career choices.

Two teachers from Center Grove High School and one teacher from Greenwood Community High School are participating in the program, which is being paid for with a $126,900 grant the Central Nine Career Center received from the Indiana Works Council. Companies offered free internships so that teachers can see what software, methods and training is needed for STEM-based careers.

Each school district is also eligible for $7,500 worth of STEM training or equipment through the grant, Central Nine Career Center assistant director Nicole Otte said.

Central Nine was able to offer a new industrial repair and maintenance class to get students in four different career fields, including welding and electronics. The grant also is paying $9,500 toward a fifth- through eighth-grade manufacturing camp, so students can be exposed to STEM-based careers at a younger age.

Endress+Hauser in Greenwood, Caterpillar Remanufacturing in Franklin and Major Tool and Machine in Indianapolis opened their doors to the teachers this spring.

“I was never in this industry in any way, and I just learned concepts, so now I can see these concepts played out in their everyday life,” Rogge said.

Rogge is the department chair for engineering and technology at Center Grove, and about 140 students participate in engineering elective courses at the high school.

The majority of her students are freshmen and sophomores. They take an introduction course, but most do not know what an engineering career entails. The most advanced course has eight students, and seven of those students plan on studying engineering in college.

Rogge spent three days at Major Tool and Machine and one day at Endress+Hauser. She was able to see the different career choices possible, from jobs that require four-year degrees to positions that need specialized certifications and a high school diploma.

Both companies use the same 3-D computer-aided design software that Rogge uses in the classroom, so she is able to show her students that what they’re learning will be used in a professional setting. Her students will also be ahead of others by being familiar with the software before graduating high school, she said.

“We have such a wide variety of students that come through the (engineering) program that we can now service all of them based on (my job shadowing experience),” Rogge said.

Exposing the teachers to what careers are available in engineering, technology and manufacturing also can help local companies find young recruits to join their businesses, Caterpillar Remanufacturing operations manager Don Kinsey said.

“The jobs in manufacturing today aren’t necessarily what they were 10 to 15 years ago, where the perception was if you went to work at a factory, that would be your job for the rest of your life,” Kinsey said.

Bringing in teachers and students through field trips or job shadow experiences helps to break that stigma, he said. Students often assume that a four-year degree is required to be in the engineering field, even though two-year associate’s degrees and certificate-based positions are also available, he said.

“You don’t necessarily need to be an engineer to succeed in STEM,” Kinsey said.

This is the first partnership for local businesses to work with Central Nine, but more field trips, job shadowing and internship opportunities will hopefully be available in the future, Otte said.

At a glance

Three local teachers toured companies in central Indiana to get a better idea of how science, technology, engineering and mathematics can be used in the real world. Through a grant, the teachers were able to learn about careers in:

  • engineering design
  • calibration and temperature sensing
  • tool design
  • computer-aided design
  • manufacturing, such as welding or machining
  • process training