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Ashwaubenon CTE program races full steam ahead

Ashwaubenon Careers in Technical Education
Ashwaubenon Careers in Technical Education teacher Tom Barnhart estimates that approximately one-third of the student body is enrolled in CTE classes. Submitted photo

By William Soquet

Contributing Writer

ASHWAUBENON – As Careers in Technical Education (CTE) Month comes to a close, the Ashwaubenon High School (AHS) CTE program is racing ahead.

CTE teacher Tom Barnhart estimates that approximately one-third of the student body is enrolled in CTE classes.

“We really adhere to a lot of different career pathways,” said Barnhart. “We have a heavy emphasis on engineering, a heavy emphasis on construction trades, a heavy emphasis on automotive, and we also have a heavy emphasis on manufacturing.”

Educators at AHS work with a variety of community stakeholders to determine course offerings.

“We offer what we offer because of our advisory board. It’s made up of community members ranging from different types of educational entities, school administrators, community businesses and industries as to how they relate to manufacturing. They are out guiding compass in terms of what we offer and how we get support for what we’re offering,” noted Barnhart.

On-site facilities at AHS include multiple Haas computer numerical control (CNC) machines, a plasma table, a lathe, a vinyl cutter, and multiple 3-D printers.

Students also have the opportunity to gain credit through either Northeast Wisconsin Technical College or the University of Wisconsin system in select classes.

According to Barnhart, CTE classes and machines pair well with mathematics.

“All the reasons why you had to solve for X, Y and Z in math class, this is all mathematically modeled on the computers by making a model and then having those models communicate to the different machines. It’s how you program robots, you’re connecting the dots on the Cartesian coordinate system,” he said.

Ashwaubenon also has robust extracurricular activities in CTE-related fields.

Skills USA is an organization which allows students to compete in various disciplines such as welding, CNC machining, architectural drafting, automotive repair, and 3-D printing.

Barnhart explained that “students go to these events and compete in these events, but I think the unique thing is that… all of our students have to have a job resume, they are required to dress professionally, and they are forced to act like they are working for a client. It’s a great way to teach students how to become a professional in the world of work.”

He noted that Skills USA is a popular organization in the Green Bay area, with many high schools having chapters.

Ashwaubenon students have competed in events at Gateway Technical College in Sturtevant, Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton and Northcentral Technical College in Wausau.

Students are currently preparing for the state competition, held at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison April 25-26.

From there, students can then advance to the national competition, held June 19-23 in Atlanta.

Compete at Gateway Tech near Kenosha, Fox Valley Tech in Appleton and Northcentral Tech in Wausau. State at Alliant Energy Arena in Madison and nationals in Atlanta.

Another club that students can be involved in is Formula Student USA.

Held in conjunction with Road America in Elkhart Lake, teams of students go through the entire process of putting a racecar on the track.

“Since it’s on a go-kart track with safety features, students are able to design, build and actually drive their cars at this event,” Barnhart said.

The experience of the annual test, which is held in May every year, can have a lasting impact on those that participate.

“There are so many kids who take their senior pictures with a car that they design – they can tell that story,” explained Barnhart.

Even for students who are not in any formal clubs, opportunities abound.

Earlier in the 2022-23 school year, approximately 50 CTE students took a field trip to the International Manufacturing Trade Show in Chicago.

It was an experience that Barnhart described as world-class.

“It’s kind of like the Detroit Auto Show, but this would all relate to manufacturing. The students get to see trendy technologies that the world is seeing for the first time at this show. It’s a glimpse into the future of manufacturing for all those students,” he said.

When asked about special events for CTE Month in February, Barnhart shrugged off the notion of a special month.

“We do things special every month. We really try to do things to incentivize learning around here,” he said.

“We’re always trying to do little incentivizing things to get the word out about CTE. My mission is not to graduate students with skillsets, it’s to help students know the pathways and see the benefits.”

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