Mark Frazier's technology education class is the kind of thing that visiting parents say they wish had been available when they were in school.
"On parent night,'' Frazier said, "they all come in here and say, 'I want to take this class.' "
A walk around the room at Parrott Middle School shows students engaged in all kinds of interesting activities connected to technology-related careers that are available today.
The large room is filled with modules that accommodate two students each. Children's partners and fields to be explored are chosen by computer.
They are not confined to one spot for the whole time they are in the class; rather, they rotate through several of the modules.
The course is offered to sixth- through eighth-graders for nine weeks, a semester or a full year, depending on a student's interests and schedule availability.
There are 17 fields of study: radio broadcasting, computer numerical control, engineering and stress analysis, aerodynamics, computer graphic design, digital electronic music, research and design, computer aided design, environmental technology, laser and fiber optics, automotive exploration, robotics and automation, fluid power, exploring electricity, space and rocketry, video editing and manufacturing/CO2 raceway.
They all reinforce elements of science, math, engineering and technology.
In aerodynamics, students have access to a wind tunnel in which they can measure the forces of air on various shapes and explore weight, lift, drag and gravity. In automation and robotics, the students learn to control a robotic arm. They study the growing use of robotics in modern technology.
In manufacturing/CO2 raceway, "students design and build carbon dioxide-powered model race cars as the final product of the manufacturing process," Frazier's course outline explains. There is a model racetrack that runs the length of the room for testing.
Computer numerical control is an exercise in manufacturing. Students learn to operate and program a mill. They use algebra skills, learn 3-D modeling and reinforce what they know about cause and effect, rate and flow, and experimental procedure.
In computer-aided design, students practice using lines, axes, grids and coordinates. They produce basic and advanced drawings and get insight into how computer-aided design is used to create buildings, vehicles, appliances and industrial equipment.
In digital video editing, students use video clips to make a smooth video. In electronic music, they compose and record music. Computer graphic design teaches how to produce a graphic that is then printed on a T-shirt.
Then there's broadcasting. "They're learning a little bit about radio broadcasting," Frazier said.
Students build a balsa wood structure and test it for strength in engineering and stress analysis. They learn about pH, water purity and filtration in environmental technology/water. Exploring electricity includes circuit building and using a digital multimeter.
Students explore sound transmission in fiber optics and lasers. They study the principles of hydraulic and pneumatic power in fluid power. Students build rockets in space and rocketry. Auto exploration opens the world of auto design to students, who begin with the history of automobiles and then delve into how the various systems work.
An introduction to technology helps students become technology literate.
These descriptions are the bare bones of what goes on in all the modules. Students have workbook assignments, quizzes, projects and tests for each one. "Every one of the modules has an environmental impact study," Frazier said.
Seventh-grader Christine Collier, 13, has done eight modules, and her favorite is computer numerical control. "You get to use a lot of your abilities," she said. "You have to follow directions. It's really cool, because you get to do it yourself."
Classmate Jessica Rouisse, 13, agrees.
"This one is (my favorite), because it's funner than the others. This one you get to do a lot more. It's more challenging," she said. "It's really complicated but challenging." Jessica said she has done about six modules.
Seventh-grader Jeremy Lewis, 12, is on his fifth module. He liked auto exploration and video editing. "When I grow up I want to be a mechanic," he said. The video module is fun, he said, because "you can take clips and put them all together and make a video."
Frazier, 58, has been teaching at Parrott for 35 years. Besides the technology class, he teaches video production and oversees yearbook production.
He's partial to technology education.
"I think it's extremely valuable," he said. "Hopefully we're influencing the kids and what they want to do. I've had kids who have contacted me and said they were influenced by the program. I've always thought the vocational programs are important for the kids.
"I love this program."