By Tim Thornberry
There is a direct connection between the academic classroom and career and technical education (CTE) programs, according to Alice Boblitt, the Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) instructor at the Nelson County Area Technology Center (ATC).
If her track record of nearly 20 years of teaching is any indication, she is right.
Boblitt has weathered the transition from old-school drafting boards to high-tech computer programs that allow her students to visually and virtually create almost anything they can imagine. She has seen many of her students achieve great success through engineering programs at both the University of Louisville’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering and the University of Kentucky.
Many of her students have also gone the community college route or gained the necessary skills to go directly into the workforce after high school.
All these options make her classroom, and most like it, magnets for students of all backgrounds with one desire: to be successful, she said. “The students keep me excited. I want to see them better themselves and go on to a postsecondary education or have a job and become valuable members of society,” Boblitt said.
Boblitt’s classroom is full of interaction as students are encouraged to work together to better understand what they are studying and get a feel for an outside working environment.
“What I try to do with my students is to get them to understand the world of work. They get a set of drawings, and they have to complete their assignments in a set amount of time, because if they’re not productive in a job, they would soon be let go,” she said.
These types of soft skills are a co-curricular component built into CTE courses and can serve a multitude of purposes in the world of work, according to Joe Morgan, the Technology, Distance Learning and Professional Support branch manager in the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Career and Technical Education (OCTE).
“When you think of all of the products and infrastructure we use on a daily basis, it is important to understand that these things began as ideas in the mind of a designer or engineer. CAD provides the tools and unique language to express those ideas so they can be understood by bankers who fund development, managers who coordinate equipment, supplies and personnel, and the technicians who make the products, buildings and infrastructure,” he said.
Morgan also emphasized the connection between classes, such as geometry, and the CAD classroom.
“CAD involves spatial thinking, which is the ability to visualize objects or terrain and create two-dimensional line drawings or three-dimensional models of them,” he said. “It involves geometry and the mathematical transformation of information so designs can be constructed accurately and made to withstand natural and man-made forces such as tornados and road vibration or the constant turning of an engine.”
Bringing the academic component into play with the applied technology is important in meeting Kentucky’s College and Career Readiness Initiative, noted Terry Miller, the OCTE academic consultant for CAD classes across the state. He said that when multi-classroom collaborations take place, the level of learning and understanding is taken to a whole new level.
“We have seen collaborative efforts that involve geometry and CAD classes really help students get a better understanding of both programs. And, for example, when you add a machine tool technology program to the mix, where students can actually create what they have designed on the computer, I think the possibilities of what that student will be able to do career-wise are endless. This completed circle kind of approach is so valuable and all it really takes to happen is communication between teachers.”
Morgan Ballard, a senior student of Boblitt’s who has taken CAD classes for three years, is planning to attend the University of Louisville next year and hopes to be accepted into the Speed School of Engineering.
“I want to be a mechanical engineer. I’ve already spoken to the representative from the school, and I’m pretty excited about it,” he said. “I enjoy this class, and to get to do this for a living would be really nice.”
Ballard added that because of his experience in the high school program, he feels he has an advantage over others going into college without the same background.
“There are a lot of people trying to get in that don’t know anything about it. I think I’m way ahead of them,” he said.
Boblitt wants all of her students to be successful and enjoys staying in touch with former students and watching their progress over the years. For her, that is the ultimate satisfaction in her job and she has words of encouragement for all of her students.
“If you are fortunate enough to find something you enjoy, your life will be so much richer for it, not always from a monetary standpoint, but each day you’ll get up and want to go to work and it will be a good thing,” she said.