Innovative Equipment Grants
Belle Fourche High School and Sturgis Brown High School were two out of 17 South Dakota recipients of the Innovative Equipment Grants, with Sturgis receiving $174,442 and Belle Fourche receiving $250,000 of the total $3 million allocated.
Belle Fourche High School plans to use its grant to purchase two truck simulators and one real vehicle. Giving students the opportunity to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
“Our first goal (when writing this grant) was to be the first school in the state of South Dakota to offer a CDL course. We will actually be the second in the nation to offer a CDL for secondary education,” said Tony Musilek, the Belle Fourche career and technical educator who will teach the course, beginning in 2023. “We also wanted to offer night classes for adults in our community to get their CDL. It was also important for us to expand our CTE program to meet the needs of our industry partners and satisfy the needs of our workforce.”
This course will be taught to students who are already 18 or will turn 18 within the semester
“We will be offering this course as a dual credit. The course is called CDL written preparation, which is taught at Lake Area Technical Institute,” said Jim Hartwell, a career and technical educator at Belle Fourche High School. “Students will save up to $5,700. Our students get to take the course for free, which is included in the grant.”
The course will utilize two simulators, which will find their home next to the school’s current five equipment simulators.
“While students are getting ready to take their learner’s permit, they will be able to practice with the simulator. The school will help prep them for that test, too,” said Hartwell. “When they get their learner’s permit, the rest of their time will be in the truck. If they are having troubles with a certain scenario in the truck, then they can practice more on the simulator.”
The students will take their CDL learner’s permit at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Belle Fourche, and once they have had enough time behind the real wheel, they will be able to take their CDL test with Roger Stevens, a CDL examiner located in Spearfish.
“Getting a CDL will open a lot of doors for them. Any truck that has a commercial tag on it, you have to have a CDL to drive it,” said Hartwell. “So if they work for a plumber, a carpenter, anything like that, it will open a door for them. That’s better pay, too.”
Mathew Raba, principal of Belle Fourche High School, plans to order the two simulators and the truck by the first of the year, and hopes to start the course next fall.
Sturgis Brown High School also has big plans for its grant.
Its staff plans to teach a new automation course, starting in the fall of 2023.
“This grant was put out to challenge us career and technical teachers to do something innovative and new,” said Cyle Miller, a career and technical educator at the school. “This (automation course) is new in the region and the state.”
“The reason I selected to go down this road is because they tell us that around 60% of jobs that our students are going to be filling in their lifetime haven’t even been created yet,” said Miller.
While it is hard to guess what careers students will be in in the future, Miller hypothesizes that the job market will be largely dominated by automation. He believes it is important to teach his students how to make a living in that arena — building and maintaining automation.
“We are seeing automation in everything from agriculture, to food service, to manufacturing, and everything in between,” said Miller. “This course will be designed to introduce students to those possibilities.”
To make his automation class as broad as possible, Miller purchased five products that will be divided into three major course sections — agriculture, electric vehicles, and manufacturing.
The first section consists of two FarmBots.
“It’s a robotic garden that comes as a kit. My students will build the garden, build the robot, program it, and then from there the robot will plant the seeds, monitor the soil for proper conditions — when it needs water, it’ll water it, when it needs fertilizer, it’ll fertilize it. It keeps track of where you planted every plant, so it weeds itself,” said Miller. “It monitors the plant health, and it’ll tell you when its time to harvest it. I bought two of those, one of which will be set up and will run continuously, and one will be constructed and taken down by the students at the end of the course.”
“The extra produce from the gardens, will go to our culinary arts program,” Miller added.
The second section uses a Switch Vehicle.
“It’s a full-on electric car. It comes to the classroom in a box, and students build the car,” said Miller. “It teaches students how an electric car works and why the controllers work the way that they do. Students can get in it, drive it, and tune it. At yearend the students will take it apart and put it into its boxes for the next students to build.”
The third section involves a manual mill and a manual lathe, two machines typically used in manufacturing.
“The students will convert the machines into a coamputer numerically controlled mill and lathe,” said Miller. “The students will put it all together and learn what each mechanical part does. They will run that equipment and tune it.”
“The program is set up so that each group of students gets that full exposure to that entire process. From a cost basis, there is a single upfront investment,” Miller summarized.
Any student who has taken the introduction to technology class and has received their OSHA 10 card (a type of safety certification) will be able to sign up for the automation course.
“There will probably be much more interest than there will be time or space,”
Miller said in regard to the number of students who will be interested in learning automation.
Miller hopes that the school can get more equipment for CTE courses in the future.
“These kinds of classes are expensive. If the public wants this kind of education, and this type of education is critical. Then they need to voice that opinion to all the powers need be,” Miller said.