Students learning work skills through High Performance Technology

The workforce is evolving and updating the processes and techniques used to get the job done. Southside Virginia Community College is trying to prepare the area’s high school students for the changing workforce through its Dual Enrollment High Performance Technology (HPT) program.
HPT can be a one- or two-year program that offers 24 college credits per year. The program also offers various certifications including AutoCAD (computer-aided design), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research).
The only requirements for a junior or senior in Mecklenburg, Lunenburg or Brunswick counties to enter the program is a passing grade in Algebra I and passing the dual enrollment placement test.
Instructors Scott Edmonds and Vincent Brown said the program is meant to teach the students what they call the six principles of engineering — electricity/electronics, manufacturing, design, quality, mechanics, and robotics.
The students use various computer programs and pieces of electronically controlled machinery to practice the skills they are learning in the classroom. The students make 3D models with the 3D printer they have available in the workspace, and they also use CNC (computer numerical control) routers to make precise cuts based on a computerized model the students have to create.
The program splits the work between classroom and hands-on, in-the-shop experience. The students first practice their skills virtually through online computer programs to try to get the math and dimensions precise before moving to the shop. Once in the shop they take the measurements they create and see if they are correct by printing and cutting the final products.
At the end of the program to test their knowledge the students not only have a written exam but they also must produce a car that is powered by carbon dioxide. The students get three weeks to draw, plan and build a model car that is able to travel from one end of the shop to the other using a CO2 cartridge.
The car’s ability to move is only one part of the final project. The students must also give a sales pitch to a panel of judges explaining why they created they car they created.
Brown said the reason for the time limit and the judging is because the program “uses real-life scenarios and situations to help the students learn”.
Edmonds and Brown said the final presentation is allowing the students to work on their management skills as well as their production skills. Edmonds said he is noticing the engineering and technology field are looking for young talent, and he believes the skills his students are gaining prepare them for the workforce.
Another way for students to practice what they learn throughout the course is through the internships that are offered specifically for students in the High Performance Technology program.
Dominion Virginia Power in Lawrenceville offers two internships to students in the High Performance Technology program, and this year the Dominion Virginia Power plant located in Greensville County asked the instructors to send a list of five students who excel in the course.
Edmonds and Brown said there are positions for students graduating from the program. They said they have former students working for NASA, Rolls Royce, Dominion Power, Eastman Chemical Company and the Newport News Shipyard.