CTE Equipment Grant will benefit BCHS, WVHS classes

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Staff Writer
Posted 9/27/17

Some of Bradley County Schools’ career and technical education classes will soon reap the benefits of a sizable grant the district received this school year.

The Tennessee Department of …

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CTE Equipment Grant will benefit BCHS, WVHS classes

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Some of Bradley County Schools’ career and technical education classes will soon reap the benefits of a sizable grant the district received this school year.

The Tennessee Department of Education awarded the district a CTE Equipment Grant totaling $239,947, which is part of the $15 million awarded to districts statewide.

“We are excited about what this is going to be adding for us in our health science and advanced manufacturing programs,” said Arlette Robinson, CTE director for Bradley County Schools. “There will be more opportunities for students to practice their skills in the classroom.” 

With the money, the district is planning to buy a geriatric simulator, hospital beds, vital signs equipment and specialized mannequins to be used for the health science classes at the Bradley Central and Walker Valley high schools.

Each school will also receive a miniature CNC mill and a six-piece “mechatronics lab.” These labs will each consist of tabletop stations which have real machinery which can be used for handling, sorting and separating and more.

In addition, Bradley Central is set to receive two virtual welders. Walker Valley will also receive a programmable robotic arm system.

Robinson noted some pieces of this plan — like two of the “mechatronics lab” pieces at each school — are being paid for with funds from the $4.5 million federal Youth CareerConnect grant the district received in 2014. Still, the recent grant helped make it possible for the district to make a significant number of equipment upgrades and additions.

The health science students will use their new equipment to learn about the physical limitations their future patients might have, and to see how they might be able to better care for them.

The geriatric simulator consists of a series of pieces a student will try on to “experience” what it might be like to be elderly. These include glasses to simulate poor eyesight, gloves to simulate motor skill problems and more.

Students will use the hospital beds and vital signs to practice caring for each other in class. The mannequins, which have features like heart and lung sounds, will also help students practice.

“We expect this will help these students learn more empathy, while also working on their skills,” said Robinson.

Mechatronics and welding students will benefit from getting to work with some of the systems they may encounter working in industrial settings.

The “mechatronics labs” will consist of industrial equipment arranged to resemble a manufacturing assembly line. Students will learn how to use the equipment and troubleshoot any problems that may arise with it.

“This will be really valuable, because it will mimic how manufacturing works today,” Robinson said. “It’s more up-to-date than what we have now.”

The virtual welders being placed at Bradley Central will allow students to practice their welding skills, without doing any actual welding. Students will go through the motions using electronic equipment and be able to view their progress on a screen, without risking mistakes with real molten metal.

The robotic arm system going to Walker Valley is a smaller version of a type of robot often used in manufacturing, and students will get to learn how to operate it before they even set foot in a manufacturing facility.

“We think this will give our students more of a real-world view of what they can do in these fields,” Robinson said. “Being able to do these things in school makes a world of difference in helping students get ready for the workforce.”

She added this will help schools better ensure a “seamless transition” from high school to the college education or career opportunities students may pursue after high school.

She offered her thanks to the state legislators and education department officials who played a role in the grants being awarded. She added the new equipment will “make a big difference” in students’ ability to experience hands-on learning.

Some 94 percent of Tennessee’s school districts received CTE Equipment Grants this year, with the average grant being about $125,000. Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen said it was the department’s goal to help schools’ CTE programs better teach students what they need to know for future jobs.

“As we seek to prepare more students for college and careers — especially in high growth industries, such as advanced manufacturing, health care, and information technology — we must resource our schools to best serve students,” McQueen said. “We have a responsibility to provide our students every opportunity in high school to be prepared for the realities and needs of the workforce.” 

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