Waupun tech ed area open for business: Warrior Innovation Center hosts open house
WAUPUN — Many agreed that it was past time to upgrade the technology education space at Waupun Area Junior/Senior High School.
Old machinery was moved there when the school opened 20 years ago. Much of it had served previous generations at the old high school.
Now that the space has been expanded and remodeled, and new equipment is being added in those spaces, it’s time to celebrate.
Waupun will be doing just that today and Wednesday. Dodge County Manufacturing Business Alliance will hold its steering committee meeting from 8-9 a.m. today and then guest speaker Ryan Long, a regional economist for the Department of Workforce Development, will meet with a larger group from 9-10 a.m. That will be followed by a tour of the completed Warrior Innovation Center.
On Wednesday, there is a Warrior Innovation Center open house from 4-8 p.m. Refreshments will be provided by the student-run coffee shop (helmed by a special needs class) and culinary arts students.
Ag and tech ed instructor Ryan Seichter is heavily involved in the project, which includes family and consumer education and business. The tech ed department includes eight instructors.
“Art and math students use our equipment as well,” Seichter said. “We want our spaces to be used in conjunction with all of the students and whatever they happen to be working on.”
State and local officials are pushing to train people for jobs available in a variety of fields, but especially in manufacturing.
“Our goal is to get students ready for the workforce,” Seichter said. “There are so many manufacturing jobs now available and that’s what we’re training students to do. All those companies need workers that have some kind of skill. We’re trying to gear things to fill what they want.”
Seichter indicated that there are more female students joining tech ed classes, learning that there are opportunities for everyone. It helps that another female instructor has joined the staff recently, and that classes that were once male-dominated are becoming more gender balanced.
The tech ed space has been humming recently as staff and students prepare to show off the facility.
“We’re highlighting everything that we do for the open house,” Seichter said. “Not everything is ready to go, but at least the community will know we’re working on it.”
Not only will students use the new equipment when it arrives, but they will also be preparing for its arrival — a win-win in Seichter’s mind. An example is the new greenhouse, where all of the work tables must be built before plants can be brought in. The old greenhouse will still be used but for more experimental purposes, with an aquaculture system already in place. The new greenhouse is 25 percent larger than the old one, augmenting the existing space.
Almost every part of the tech ed wing will be moved to a space where it can function better. A lot of activities were completed in the classroom. Now those activities will take place in a lab better suited to those purposes.
Improved air flow will create better circulation and a safer environment. The welding shop has been revamped, with many new and improved work stations. An auto mechanics area is part of the total space — which has tripled with the recent addition/remodel. A paint booth will be constructed to allow students to add the finishing touch to many of its products.
Seichter and other staff members have been putting in long hours to prepare for the open house, and to get the building ready for increased usage.
“Kids are often working late on their robotics projects,” Seichter said. “Last night, students and I were working together and I left at about 8:30. If kids want to work, we want them here. Even if there are only five or six kids, we’d rather have them here working than running around with nothing constructive to do.”
New equipment includes a new CNC (computer numerical control) mill, a CNC plasma table, 3-D printers and large-scale laser printers, standard equipment in modern manufacturing.
Robotics is also popular, with obvious connections to the modern workplace.
Students not only learn the labor aspect of work, but how to manage things as well. They will be involved in manning the tool room, negotiating contracts with buyers, ordering supplies, keeping track of materials and making sure customers are satisfied.
Courses are offered in a wide range of skills, from beginning to advanced.
“In woods, for example, we have everything from intro to furniture and cabinet making,” Seichter said. “We also have a building trades class that will be building our outside shed. In metals class, we have an intro to welding and metals, and a course teaching CNC operation.
“We’re very excited. Kids are excited about new technology, and are eager to use it and learn about it. This has been a long time coming. A lot of our old equipment was used 30 years ago by our kids’ parents. Technology has changed since then.
“It has been fun to see how much everything here has grown and how many opportunities this is creating for students.”