By Rick Cohler
A newly constructed center for auto repair training at Seymour Community High School not only benefits the students making use of the facility, but has also helped the school expand and refine other technical education space in the high school.
Senior Matt Krahn is currently an apprentice mechanic at Broadway Automotive in Green Bay and said the new 5,000-square-foot shop enables him to learn more about car repair.
“Now we can have more vehicles in the shop, so it creates a lot more learning opportunities,” he said. “A lot of things so far I have had some experience with, but it’s nice to be able to do more than I have been doing on my own.”
He said new tools in the center include a new tire changer and balancer along with new lifts that will allow the students to work on ATVs and snowmobiles.
A group of several students is assigned to each tool cart and is responsible for the tools in the cart.
Krahn said if a tool is lost, the group is responsible for paying to replace it.
After graduation next spring, he plans on going to NWTC before getting a full-time position at Broadway where he plans to specialize working on Ford vehicles.
Krahn said he would encourage younger students to build on what interests them.
“Whatever you have a passion for, keep going and try new things with it.”
Construction of the facility began following the approval of a $6.5 million district referendum in April of 2021.
Automotive teacher Eric Bergsbaken was tasked with designing the shop and says he was able to continue a design process started by former teacher Jon Kollath, who is now retired.
“I liked the design of the building from the get-go,” Bergsbaken said.
One major change from the old shop is that cars can be driven directly into their designated repair bay.
Previously, student drivers had to make a sharp right turn upon entering.
“When you’re working with high school students who are 16 or 17 years old and still learning how to drive, our facility was challenging,” Bergsbaken said. “So we went with a drive-through pattern because we wanted to get more lifts in here and make it easy for the kids.”
The shop has room for students to work on four vehicles at the same time and has allowed the district to expand and remodel spaces for other technical studies.
Tech ed enrollment growing
Prior to the addition, instructor Staci Sievert said welding, machining and woods were all together in one area, which, in addition to crowding the students in the rapidly growing tech ed department, also created a fire hazard.
“In the last five years our student enrollment in tech ed has increased 52 percent.” Sievert said. “The staff was doubled from two to four teachers, but we really needed to improve our space. With this addition we were able to separate the metals from woods and increase the size of the electricity space. Now we have a designated area for home construction – they can pull a trailer in there, build a tiny home or small cabin, sell it and move it out. Before they had to build it in a classroom, deconstruct it and move it out. That will make for more authentic learning. Metals has its own designated shop, connected to a class room with two computer numerical controlled (CNC) units. That’s a big commitment by the school board and district to take tech ed up a notch.”
The electrical program boasts a room where students can learn wiring for both commercial and residential buildings, and a fabrication lab is equipped with 3-D printers, a vinyl printer, laser engraver, embroidery machine and a robotic room is connected for a total of five labs.
Sievert and Bergsbaken are joined by Jody Schneider who teaches electricity, CAD and home construction and Mike Holmgren, who teaches welding and metals/machining.
“We all have visions about where to go next,” Sievert added. “Because we’ve added higher-end abilities we are really building the capacity of our students to be able to do more and achieve high skill levels.”
The district plans to hold an open house from 8 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Nov. 12.
By Rick Cohler