published Monday, May 16th, 2011

Special courses open a window to new industries

By Noah Saragoza/Valley Voices
Jonathan Reyes works on making a catapult Thursday during a robotics class.  He and other students in the class are a part of the Engineering Academy at Ooltewah High School. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Jonathan Reyes works on making a catapult Thursday during a robotics class. He and other students in the class are a part of the Engineering Academy at Ooltewah High School. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press
  • photo
    Hunter Rozzell makes adjustments to a catapult that he and three other students built during a robotics class at Ooltewah High School. The course is part of the Engineering Academy there.
    Photo by Allison Carter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Of the many things that plague high-schoolers, choosing a career is one that is becoming easier in the Chattanooga area thanks to programs aimed at serving students with special interests.

Many schools in Hamilton County have developed programs in fields their students wish to learn more about or pursue as an occupation.

At Ooltewah High School, the engineering program has become more of a hit than the teachers who originally thought of the idea could have imagined. As a result, the process of enrolling in the program has become more complicated.

“We make them [the students] apply, they get interviewed and then we select between 25 and 30, 40 maximum, depending on how school is at the time,” said Lynda Pickett, the lead teacher for the school’s Engineering Academy, a set of classes dealing with different aspects of the profession.

Pickett is also the head of the school’s robotics team, which for the last four years has participated in the FIRST Tech Challenge, a robotics competition for high school students.

“We show fairly well ... and I’ve had several Skills USA students that have placed at the regionals competition,” Pickett said, referring to a collaborative organization that helps teachers prepare teens for chosen careers.

Nick Ray, a graduating senior at Ooltewah, has been in the Engineering Academy for three years. He said he has benefited from the program’s wide variety.

“We do projects in building and design, learn how to read plans, interpret drawings and design things like bridges and houses,” he said.

At Red Bank High School, Glen Wagner oversees the Broadcasting Academy, a series of media-based classes. Students in these courses run a daily news broadcast at the school.

Red Bank senior Michael Kopcsak has been involved in the academy since his freshman year. Taking news from concept to finished piece is a multistep process, he said.

“The class starts out with Mr. Wagner giving us a morning meeting, [and] we run down what stories are going on the show,” he said. “Then we have our newscast, someone writes the script, we load everything onto our equipment and film the news.”

Randy Smith is the media-concepts teacher at Red Bank. He is in charge of teaching the basics to students who are just entering the program.

“We touch on all of the basic broadcasting mediums and teach them how to edit, write, produce and record their own material,” he said.

Wagner said the information and skills his students learn in the broadcasting classes change their perceptions of the media.

“My students say that once they have my class, they can never watch a newscast or a movie the same way again because they’re always looking for the technical things about it all,” he said.

Noah Saragoza is a student at Soddy-Daisy High School.

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