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Tech college helps kids have fun and think about their future

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David Brazy
June 17, 2011
— The Legos robot built by Alex Vanbrocklin and Kadan Ruiz clipped the wheel of a chair and toppled onto its side.

The two boys took a moment to grumble before picking up their creation and rushing back to their computer to adjust its programming. By calculating distances, power usage and the angle of turns, Vanbrocklin and Ruiz attempted to navigate their car through an obstacle course.


They succeed on their fourth try and were rewarded with candy from instructors John Horkey and Dave Gile.


The boys were having fun and getting hands-on experience of what it's like to be an automated systems engineer.


That was the goal at Blackhawk Technical College's 14th annual Tech Knowledge College for Rock County students entering seventh to 10th grade.


Vanbrocklin, who will be starting high school in Milton this fall, said he hopes to be a mechanical engineer. This was his second year taking the robot challenge class, and he's planning on taking a programming design class in high school.


Gile said the classes were a great way to get the kids thinking about their futures.


"It really gives them a good chance to see that their creativity and problem solving can help them get a job in the future," Gile said. "They love to finish the obstacle course, and they are so proud when they get it right."


Anthony Hess, a seventh-grader at Marshall Middle School, tried his hand at the electrical adventure class.


Hess put on the gear of an electrical technician. This included a hard hat to climbing spikes strapped to his shoes. He climbed a few feet up the practice pole behind the school.


As Hess hung from the safety belt and posed for a picture, he yelled, "This is awesome!"


Hess said he got started repairing things by going to work with his dad, who is a train technician.


Hess likes the idea of being able to work with his hands and is thinking about it as a career.


"I'd like to rebuild things and maybe make a few things of my own," Hess said.


The Tech Knowledge College offered 22 classes. They included classes on topics from cooking to welding. Those in a criminal justice class investigated a suspicious person on campus.


The three-day classes that wrapped up Thursday might be the program's last.


The program won't be offered next year because of budget cuts, said Linda Brown, manager of enrollment services and director of the Tech Knowledge College. The school is focusing resources on adult students, she said.


The program might be resurrected if funding can be found.


"It's kind of like my baby," Brown said. "I've been here since the inception, and it has been great to see it grow into what it has become today."



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