Hands on, full speed ahead

2017 Expanding Horizons Summer Camps exposes kids to variety of skills

Pikachu and the Death Star helped kick off the first week of this summer’s Career & Technical Education classes, taking place at Douglas County Schools for a second year at no cost through mid-August.

The icons made famous through Pokémon and “Star Wars” showed up during the advanced technology and manufacturing course in its first week at Phoenix Charter School. Students incorporated the images using a computer-aided design program to create passive speakers for cell phones. The devices were being prepared for a 3-D printer.

Students manipulated split-screen views of their designs, which they personalized in various ways. Where one teen had two profiles of Pikachu etched into the side of his device, another created his to resemble the mobile space station operated by Darth Vader and his crew.

Fifteen-year-old Rogue Skrip of Myrtle Creek explained that he made a flat surface on the bottom of his passive speaker so that it could sit upright, but the real “Star Wars” Death Star was strictly sphere-shaped.

“I was surprised I was able to do this in just one day,” he said, gesturing to the computer screen. Creating shapes and imagery through a CAD program isn’t part of the curriculum at his current school, said Rogue, who will enter 10th grade at Umpqua Valley Christian School in the fall.  Previously, his only experience in the subject was a class he took in third grade at Cobb School.

But that didn’t keep Rogue from catching on quickly under the instruction of Phoenix technology teacher C.J. Bryant. So did the other advanced technology students, Rogue said.

“Some came in behind, but they caught up,” he said, adding that a full day at camp leaves him “mentally exhausted,” but in a good way.

Rogue Skrip of Myrtle Creek refines his design for a passive speaker device as he uses a CAD program at Phoenix Charter School’s Expanding Horizons Summer Camp.

Engaging young minds is the goal of all the Expanding Horizons camps, offered across Douglas County through a grant secured by the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub. The camps, which emphasize Career & Technical Education, are designed to provide information and experience to middle school and high school students interested in exploring various career paths. They are offered in partnership with local CTE programs, Umpqua Training & Employment, Umpqua Community College, Douglas Education Service District, Oregon State University and the Area Health Education Center of Southwest Oregon.

Activities are plentiful at the various camps. Depending on where students report, they may spend the day welding, building birdhouses, installing a bike rack, creating stepping-stones from fresh concrete or dissecting cow eyes.

Keeping kids busy over the summer is always a good goal. But the Expanding Horizons camps aim higher. Organizers hope to expose kids to potential career ideas – and, moreover, jobs offered by local employers. It’s a “grow-your-own-workforce” mentality that boosts local economies.

“Middle school is when we want to catch them,” said Phoenix School secretary Sam Batman, who helps lead the Exploring the Trades camps at Phoenix. “It’s when we pique the interest in the trades, and kids start establishing thought patterns about what they might want to do.”

Along with Phoenix, Roseburg and Douglas high schools were the sites getting started in June. RHS followed its format from the previous year by offering welding, drafting and woodworking activities. DHS fired up its forge and opened its metal shop.

Seventh-grader-to-be Edward Conway stood in line in the RHS wood shop, holding a board and waiting his turn at the miter saw. He and the other students were following blueprints to make winter roost boxes. His older sister, 15-year-old Penelope, was volunteering to help younger students as she waited for the afternoon session for high schoolers.

Instructor Chris Spencer supervises Edward Conway in the Roseburg High woodshop.

Penelope Conway works on bookshelves for the RHS math department.

Edward, 12, said he signed up for the RHS camp because his sister had done it, “and we have a table saw at home, so I thought I’d give it a try.” Penelope got her start at her dad’s suggestion and found she liked working with wood. After taking last year’s RHS summer camp, she decided to take a class in wood shop last year as an RHS freshman and ended up making a nightstand.

Explaining how the shop safety equipment worked, Penelope said that the machines shut down when they sense the user’s hand is too close to the blade. The resulting damage to the blade is “expensive, but better than losing a finger,” she said.

Safety was foremost that same day over at the DHS metal shop, where students made sure a visitor donned protective eyewear before approaching the forge or the plasma cutter.

For Colby Phillips-Holdsclaw, signing up for Expanding Horizons was a no-brainer. “This is my favorite class at school and I want to spend more time in here anyway,” he said. He was especially enthusiastic about forging steel into layers to create a piece of artwork.

Colby Phillips-Holdsclaw shapes layered steel heated in the metal shop at Douglas High.

Colby, 15, said the school’s no-weapons policy prevents him from creating his preferred project – a Damascus steel knife. But he could make a letter opener.

“I’m going to take it to a guy in Glide who is the best Damascus steel craftsman I know and show it to him and have him critique it,” Colby said. “Maybe I can intern with him.”

Back at Phoenix, Sam Batman said she was preparing for her Exploring the Trades students in the July session. If this year is like last summer, she expects a successful curriculum.

“Last year we had students make daily pro and con lists,” she recalled. “At the beginning, you’d see ‘This is hard.’ By the end, it was ‘We love it.’ And that’s what we wanted. Kids were working hard and feeling really good by the end of the day.”


A high school student manipulates a computer image in the advanced technology and manufacturing course at Phoenix Charter School.

Roseburg High instructor Craig Stinnett shows some basic principles of welding to middle school students in the RHS technology and manufacturing class.


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