‘It’s everything’

New classes at Alpena High blend math, engineering, career training, cool tech

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Students in the Mechatronics and Amp Up classes at Alpena High School use different equipment, like a robotic arm, heat press, measurement tools, electrical sensor system, and motor control system, among other equipment. The students can take tests on the equipment and receive certifications if they pass the tests.

CORRECTION:This story has been updated to reflect that Amp Up provides passing students an Algebra I credit. That information was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

ALPENA – Thanks to a $400,000 grant, Alpena High School students are having the opportunity this school year to take two new classes and be more hands-on in their learning.

Alpena Public Schools received the grant in January to purchase equipment and launch the Mechatronics and Amp Up classes. The grant, a Career and Technical Education Innovation and Equipment Grant from the state, has allowed Alpena to expand its CTE program in manufacturing.

CTE Program Director Joyce McCoy said the grant had to be used by this month so the class could be ready for students. She said teachers Jason Loyer and Zach Grulke are embracing the new classes because of the training they have completed.

She believes more students will sign up for the two classes in the future once they get to see what the classes are like this school year.

“The students we have now signed up without even a room,” McCoy said. “We didn’t have a room or anything when they were signing up last year, so, now, with it there, it will have a big difference for students in the future.”

Mechatronics and Amp-Up are two-hour classes that give students an opportunity to be more hands-on and the chance to receive certifications.

Mechatronics, taught by Loyer, combines math, innovative and critical thinking, and engineering, along with hands-on training in design processes.

Students in that class learn computer-aided design and computed-aided manufacturing. The students also learn about electronics, robotics, equipment controls and sensors, programming, hydraulics, and pneumatics.

Senior Robert Fairchild said Mechatronics gives him and his classmates more hands-on experiences. He said the class focuses on industry and industrial needs, and there are a lot of applications that the students needs to know that can help them in the future.

“A lot of the machines will teach us applications for industries that any industry needs,” Fairchild said. “It gives us the chance at jobs and not many classes can provide us certifications.”

Freshman Timothy Bleau said that, if other students like hands-on learning, Mechatronics and Amp Up are the right classes for them. He likes everything that has happened so far in the class.

“This is a good foundation, because you can find out what you like,” Fairchild said. “The certification programs just in general look good, you only not come out with a high school diploma, but with a certification that most students won’t have.”

Amp Up blends Algebra I with manufacturing and design processes. The class, taught by Grulke, teaches students how to apply equations through projects in the woodworking and Mechatronics labs.

Grulke said Amp Up bridges the gap for students who need to earn their Algebra I credit. He said students apply algebra in the class by running a business.

“Students are exposed to algebra that any algebra student will get, and then we add into that the business concepts, running a business, and they also get to use woodworking tools and heat presses,” Grulke said. “They actually create a real-life business, dealing with customers and making a product and delivering that product.”

Alpena High is the first school in Michigan to have an Amp Up class. The class is available to students who have already taken Algebra I. Grulke said students are enjoying the class and the option to get up and move around instead of sitting at a desk. He said they like applying the concepts of the class and being in a lab and hands-on setting.

“They are really buying into the whole business side of it,” he said. “Most of the students that have signed up for Amp Up are students that will want to get more out of their math lessons. They’re driven and they want to create something with their hands. Those are the students that want to be in the class.”

One of the classrooms for the classes is a drafting room with new computers, Loyer said. There is also a room with different equipment that students learn to use. The Amp Up students use the woodworking classroom connected to the Mechatronics lab through a see-through garage door.

Both Loyer and Grulke had to complete training over the summer for the equipment they use so they can show the students how to use them.

“We have a trainer coming in to talk about the laser engraver,” Loyer said. “We’re trying to learn because there’s so many disciplines here, so it’s not just history, it’s not just math, it’s everything.”

The students rotate from each equipment station and have to take tests on the equipment they use. They can receive certifications if they receive 70 percent on those tests.

Julie Goldberg can be reached at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5688.