CPHS Auto Students Win First in UTI Top Tech Challenge

Students from Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana gathered with 22 teams of two for the 2022 Universal Tech Institute Top Tech Challenge in Lisle, IL on Feb. 10. Crown Point High School automotive technology senior Will Hodge and junior Tyler Anderson beat them all for the top prize of $10,000 scholarships for each, a tool box for each, the first place trophy, and tools for hand tools for CPHS.

“UTI is going to help with getting certifications to become more qualified to get pretty much any job in the automotive field available,” Hodge said. This scholarship adds to the $2,500 he won in November for an essay contest. He plans to go into the automotive industry and currently works for a shop in Lowell.

In the Top Tech Challenge, there were two competitions to demonstrate hands-on skill and written understanding of fundamentals. The other CPHS students toured the UTI campus, took turns on UTI’s virtual reality simulator, and worked with new automotive diagnosing software.

“The students had a written test to complete along with four hands-on activities that included checking various components and being able to perform troubleshooting skills to diagnose various problems,” CPHS Automotive Technology Instructor Dan White said.

Anderson said White encouraged him to compete in the challenge. Anderson has been working on cars for a few years with his father and takes the Auto Service II class. “The challenge was pretty easy for us,” Anderson said. “You had to read codes and measure brake rotors.” Anderson enjoys repairing jet skis in his free time.

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Danielle Rich, Don Wood Foundation Program Officer, and Gary Gatman, Don Wood Foundation Trustee for the Don Wood Foundation presents a check to the Area 18 CTE Coopeartive Director Brittany Kloer and Dr. Brad Yates, Area 18 LEA.

Don Wood Foundation Gifts Over One Million Dollars in Support the Next Level Programs of Study in the Area 18 CTE Cooperative

Bluffton, Indiana (Tuesday, December 21, 2021/Don Wood Foundation) –The Area 18 Cooperatives was awarded more than $1 million in funding to purchase advanced manufacturing equipment for five area high schools, thanks to the generosity of the Don Wood Foundation.

The help of the Don Wood Foundation grant will enhance educational learning experiences for the students of Adams Central, South Adams, North Adams, Bluffton-Harrison, and Blackford County School Corporations. This funding will support equipment upgrades to ensure that Area 18 students have the skills needed for success in today’s competitive workforce.

“We are pleased to be able to support Area 18 and the Advanced Manufacturing programing,” said Laura Macknick, Executive Director of the Don Wood Foundation. “We applaud their pursuit of industry partnerships and training of the next generation. The future of manufacturing will be enhanced by Area 18’s work, which strategically aligns with our foundation’s mission.”

Kloer recognizes the importance of collaboration between CTE teachers and local industry partners as an important practice to highlight the marketability, viability, and career opportunities provided by advanced manufacturing in our communities. “Area 18 CTE Cooperative’s partnership with the Don Wood Foundation will allow our students the opportunity to gain the training necessary to fill many of today’s jobs high-skill, high-wage, or high demand occupations in the North East Economic Region.

80/20 Founder and former CEO, Don Wood, started his career at a very young age selling seeds door to door. Being a true entrepreneur his entire life, Don gained wisdom and real-life experiences from a variety of roles, including machinist, salesman, board member, and business owner. Don was a “toolmaker by trade…salesman by attitude.” His vision, along with sons Doug and John, for what is now known as “The Industrial Erector Set,” began in a 3,000 square foot building in 1989 and has expanded to a campus of over 255,000 square feet. Ultimately, Don’s legacy lives on with the work of the Don Wood Foundation Trust, which will help to grow and transform the manufacturing sector in NE Indiana by supporting industrial technology areas along with sales, entrepreneurism, and leadership.

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J. Everett Light Career Center Shapes Workforce of the Future

J. Everett Light Career Center provides programs that allow local high school students an opportunity to explore their passion in an innovative, hands-on, real-world environment. Director & Principal Shawn Wright-Browner offers insight into how the initiative is playing a key role in developing Indiana’s workforce of the future. CLICK TO WATCH THE VIDEO

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After a school year that challenged both students and teachers with virtual and blended learning, more than 100 Merrillville High School students requested welding classes during the 2021-22 school year, nearly double that of previous years for the school’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program.

Students were ready to get back to hands-on learning, and the recently completed classroom renovation is now primed to accommodate the increasing number of students.

The $79,000 construction project took place over the last several months, adding student workstations, improvements to shop ventilation, electrical, five new multi-function machines and fume extractors. A Perkins Grant along with funding awarded by the Hobart Redevelopment Commission covered approximately $45,000 worth of equipment upgrades.

“As a district, we are committed to improving the welding lab for the students,” said Bob Phelps, director of technology and CTE. “We increased our capacity to serve our students by removing outdated equipment and adding five more welding bays with new multi-process welders. The students now train in a cleaner, safer lab that meets our post-secondary and industry partners’ expectations.”

Historically, the introductory class of 12 students required them to take turns welding, but that process made it difficult to satisfy the hands-on requirements for dual credit or the Department of Education curriculum, according to Joe Sokol, MHS welding educator.

“With the expansion of the welding facilities, all of the students can have access to a machine for their entire class period,” he said. “Since we offer four welding classes a day, we will be able to accommodate 48 students per trimester.”

The Welding II class that maxed out at seven students can now accommodate 12 students.

The MHS welding program will increase dual credit participation during this school year, which means students will not only earn credit toward their high school diploma, but will also earn credit toward college or trade school, giving them a jumpstart on their future education. In addition, the program will increase the number of welder certifications issued to students.

“We are setting the groundwork to begin implementing the Next Level Programs of Study (NLPS) curriculum in the fall of 2022,” Sokol said.

He said those requirements will focus on a greater concentration within the CTE Pathways.

“That means transitioning from Welding I and Welding II into specific areas of knowledge,” he said. “After completing the Principles of Welding course, students will move into concentrators: Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) and Gas Arc Welding (GMAW & FCAW).

“Students will gain a deeper understanding of specific welding processes,” he continued. “They will be able to pursue more welding qualifications, which will increase their employability and help build a professional resume of skills.”

He added that as the MHS program continues to grow, so do the relationships it builds with manufacturers and suppliers in Northwest Indiana who seek skilled employees.

“On any given day you can walk in and see Merrillville students of all skill levels on their way to becoming certified welders while still in high school,” Phelps said. “By providing those students with great instruction and professional equipment, we are setting them up for success.”

Sokol began his third year at Merrillville High School this fall. MHS CTE Assistant Principal Mike Knocke credits the educator for the success of the program.

“Mr. Sokol is an enthusiastic teacher who cares deeply about his program and his students,” Knocke said. “He is constantly looking for innovative ways to build up student engagement and is always willing to come in to help our students.

“When you get a teacher that offers the unique energy that Mr. Sokol comes with, combined with a program in which students get large amounts of hands-on experience, students are going to gravitate to that program,” he added.

Sokol even worked over the summer to help his students increase their skills and earn welding certifications.

The teacher combined his love for education and technical crafts into a welding education career at MHS. After 14 years as a mathematics teacher, he changed careers.

“I pursued a new career in structural steel fabrication,” Sokol said. “I served as a quality control/quality assurance manager, where I earned credentials as a Certified Welding Inspector and Certified Welding Educator.

“I also acquired welding qualifications and certifications in specific processes and positions,” he added.

After several years in the QA/QC role, he was intrigued by an opening at Merrillville High School.

“The more I thought about coming back to the profession in a new capacity, the more excited I was at the opportunity,” he said. “I am looking forward to building an amazing program for our students.”


A Different Vision

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel vision is sometimes defined as “single-minded concentration on one objective.”

And when it comes to a team of high school designers who have been working on their Exhibit Columbus project for about a year, that definition is extremely applicable.

C4 Architecture and Construction Instructor Darin Johnson said that work on the team’s installation, entitled “Tunnel Vision,” began in August of 2020, though the “physical build” didn’t begin until this past spring.

About 95% of the project is done. The hope is for Force Construction to move the installation this coming week. Design team leader and Columbus East graduate Chase Jones said that the installation will be placed at Central Middle School, on Fifth Street near CSA Lincoln.

While the team’s focus and diligence in bringing their design to life could be called tunnel vision in the sense of being focused, the word’s other definition — “extreme narrowness of viewpoint” — is pretty inaccurate. Instead, the high school team’s project is designed to encourage viewers to broaden their horizons by exploring the past, present and future of local architecture.

The year’s theme for Exhibit Columbus is “New Middles: From Main Street to Megalopolis, What is the Future of the Middle City?” This cycle of programming explores the future of the center of the United States and the regions connected by the Mississippi Watershed.

The project description for Tunnel Vision states that waterways shape both the formation of cities and their future development.

“Tunnel Vision looks at how Columbus was formed as a middle city and how it can develop into a larger city,” the description states. “Just as rivers have a linear path, our geodesic tunnel is a linear experience that transports you through history.”

The tunnel is made up of green and blue triangles, with etchings of local buildings displayed on the latter. The project will also include QR codes that, when scanned, provide informational videos about these pieces of local architecture.

The team took the question of Exhibit Columbus’ theme somewhat literally, creating a video that shows changes to Columbus over time and into the future.

In a video describing the exhibit, design team member and North senior Eshaan Mehta said the team sent out a survey for community feedback, which was taken into account in considering their vision for future Columbus.

“The responses we got were a combination of wanting to keep what was already there and sort of improve it,” he said, “and a lot of people honestly wanted to tear down what we had and build Columbus from the ground up again, which was quite an interesting dichotomy to try to approach — which we decided to do by keeping the core of the structures that were already here and kind of overlaying new facades on top of them.”

The project description also states that “Tunnel Vision” is not just about history but also provides a place for gathering and a visual experience.

Johnson’s advanced architecture students created the entire design, and the physical build began in May. Students also volunteered their time over the summer to work on building the project.

Some of Johnson’s building trades class was involved with the project as part of the “build group,” which also includes the design team, he said. Building trade students manufactured some of the steel struts and helped assemble them. He said the assembly was about 50-50 between architecture and building students.

The architecture students worked on all of the triangles in the project, including the etchings of architectural landmarks.

However, there was also a lot of work that went into the project even before building began.

“Almost the entire second, third and fourth quarter of the school year, we just took every day, probably an hour and a half, during our regular architecture mod to just work on everything else,” said Chase.

This included writing and recording videos in English and Spanish about the history of different buildings.

“Putting this together was the easiest part,” Eshaan joked, pointing to the multicolored tunnel.

Both Johnson and students said that timing and organization have been challenges for the project, especially given the number of people involved.

However, despite recent trends in material availability, the team didn’t have too much trouble getting what they needed, Johnson said. The green acrylic was little late, but the team still got it in time.

While the project is close to being installed, there was still work to be done earlier this week.

Johnson said Monday that the team would begin laying out locations of the tin piers at Central the next day and finish installing them by the end of the week. These hold up the installation, he explained.

Eshaan said that they’re in the final stages of the project. They still need to add QR codes to the tiles and complete certain videos. He and other students said they’ve also made some benches that need to be installed.

Despite the amount of work required, both the students and instuctor have enjoyed the process. Johnson said he likes how the project lets him work with students “outside of our standard curriculum.”

“It’s allowed me to do a lot of things that high schoolers don’t get to do,” said Eshaan. “…We got to essentially redesign all of downtown Columbus, which I can honestly say no other high schoolers would get an opportunity to do.”

It also gives them the opportunity to work with professionals, he added.

Johnson said that the students have collaborated with Exhibit Columbus’s curators, who work to ensure that each exhibit fits the year’s theme.

He also believes the project made students realize “just how significant the architecture of Columbus is,” which could be easy for lifelong residents to overlook.

“We’re lucky that we get to take a lot these great works for granted,” said Eshaan, “and I think this is just an opportunity to help the community recognize what we exactly have and appreciate what we have.”

Johnson added, “And by them going through and identifying all the structures and then researching all of the structures — if this would’ve been a class assignment, they would have hated it. But by it being their design, they embraced it. And now they embrace all the architecture. So it couldn’t have been a better experience for them, and I hope that the community sees it for what it is and they have the same newfound respect for the architecture of Columbus.”

About the team

This year’s Exhibit Columbus High School Design Team: Naricyn Andis, Bailey Barker, Isaac Carpenter, Brody Copas, Connor Deaton, Wyatt Frist, Owen Hebert, Angie Hernandez, Team Leader Chase Jones, Miguel Martinez, Eshaan Mehta, Grishma Pitkar, Adam Schwartz and Joshua Taylor.

This year’s Exhibit Columbus High School Build Team: Alexander Arellano Ferrer, Ethan Clark, Cameron Crider, Rocco Duffy, Gavin Frankhauser, Harley Gant, Andrew Krueger, Wesley Lack, Kai Linneweber, Juan Ruiz-Tapia, George Starks, Eric Stavnheim, Jesse Williams.

Instructor: Darin Johnson, C4 program

  • The design team includes architecture students from North, East, CSA New Tech, Hauser, Brown County and Seymour. The build team includes construction students from North, East and CSA New Tech.
  • Over 60 construction students from Johnson and C4 instructor Mike Metz’s classes are involved in installing the exhibit at Central Middle School. Metz is also involved with the installation.
  • There are also students from precision machining and welding who have been fabricating parts. A student from graphic design has worked on the design and printing of T-shirts and QR codes.

Where to learn more

More information about “Tunnel Vision” and other Exhibit Columbus installations can be found at

Exhibit Columbus alternates between an exhibition one year and a symposium the next. It is an exploration of art, architecture, design and community that highlights the city’s global legacy in Modernist architecture, and promotes creativity and fresh ideas about that for the future.

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