Students crowded around as teacher Patrick Gunter flipped the switch to an air compressor, which started up with a loud hum. Suddenly, a metal arm on the nearest table began to move.
“These are industry standard based machines,” Gunter said. “These are all real world types of applications and there are a lot of industries that can’t find enough people qualified.”
At Cross Keys High School, the DeKalb School System is working closely with The Cross Keys Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps students enrolled in the high school’s attendance zone, to implement two new programs.
The programs—one in manufacturing and one in information technology—will also be available to students from Dunwoody, Tucker, Chamblee, Lakeside, Clarkston, Druid Hills and Stone Mountain high schools.
“These kids are going to be writing programs to control robotics on manufacturing lines and assembly lines and they’ve just installed four robotic arms at Cross Keys,” foundation president Kim Gocke said.
Gocke said it was the foundation’s goal to help young people see the “limitless opportunities” in manufacturing and internet technology by giving them the knowledge and real-world experience they need for success in the burgeoning field.
DeKalb County Schools has hired Gunter, a National Board Certified Teacher to teach the manufacturing program, which includes courses in material science, robotics and automated systems.
“One of my fortes is program development and I’ve been teaching for 23 years. So, I do a lot of this and I start programs and get them [going],” Gunter said.
Gunter will also be the coach for a planned solar car team and two robotics teams that will operate out of the school. Next summer, he will lead a high school solar car team to compete in the Solar Car Challenge, a 1,600-mile race from Dallas to Los Angeles.
During the first week of class, Gunter said he had quickly put his students to work on various classroom projects, including an area for robotic competitions.
“It doesn’t look like it but you’re looking at about $60,000 worth of equipment,” Gunter said, pointing to the four new robotic arms and what would soon become the new robotics arena that students were building.
Gunter, who also builds solar houses and electric cars, said that throughout the year, the students would be writing programs to control and operate a connected robotics system. With this experience, he said students will have the opportunity to get a head start on what is happening in the real world.
“We’ve got to have a different mindset to train the people to fill the jobs in our society today. You’re seeing so many people that have gone to college and they’ll get out and have a master’s degree but they can’t find a job,” he said.
Additionally, Gunter and his students will deliver Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workshops to area fourth and fifth graders.
He also plans to launch a county-wide inventor’s fair for grades four through 12 with each of the first, second and third place winners receiving trophies and cash prizes. The invention judged to be the “most patentable” will earn the inventor a patent attorney’s services pro bono.
Students enrolled in the information technology program will learn the fundamentals of enterprise information technology, advanced web design and animation. The students will also participate in a year-long project to deliver a software solution to an area non-profit.
“Our goal was to bring to that platform a really über IT program,” Gocke said.
By the spring semester, internships involving both programs will be awarded to those students who have excelled.