Tunkhannock Area High School students learned how their automotive technology curriculum connects with STEM during a presentation from the Universal Technical Institute on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Virginia Prial, a high school admissions representative for UTI, visited Tunkhannock with Myles Loughlin, UTI’s local admissions marketing manager, to give demonstrations with two vehicles they brought into the high school’s auto tech shop.
UTI is a technical education school with 12 campuses across the country, the closest being in Exton. The school offers complimentary demonstrations for high school students to show how the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics relate to the automotive industry.
Students of all grade levels in automotive instructor Kyle Snover’s auto tech I-III courses participated in the demos on UTI’s Ford F-350 diesel “STEM truck” and T-bucket.
Snover said sometimes students have a tendency to want to shy away from STEM subjects, but don’t realize that they are already applying STEM concepts in their automotive work.
“A lot of the students are doing this stuff every day in the shop courses, and they’re just not recognizing it as STEM-type activities,” he said.
During the demonstrations, students ran diagnostics on the truck, which included completing a cylinder balance test to diagnose the performance of the engine, Snover said.
UTI brings out the T-bucket because if students decide to enroll there, they have the opportunity to tear down its engine and put it back together, as well as install different aftermarket performance parts on it and then put it on a dyno to see the changed amount of horsepower.
“We fire that up and we discuss how our high-performance program runs within our basic auto program,” Prial said.
The demos also included computerized technology.
“We have the students run that diagnostic compression test and it’s all directly hooked up to the computer,” Prial said. “A lot of times people think being a technician is greasy, grimy work, but in this day and age, it’s really computerized.”
Prial said the demo program is part of the STEM Coalition and aims to bridge the gap between STEM education and how it applies to different trades.
“We’re teaching it in schools, but having it be correlated to an exact industry is helpful,” she said.
STEM applies to the automotive industry specifically in a ton of ways, she said.
“Everything from compression ratios to the four strokes of an engine to different gas fuel mixtures, size of pistons, the diameter of tires, everything goes directly correlated to STEM,” Prial explained. “The remapping and design of an engine, how we can maximize horsepower, it all goes into it.”
The UTI representatives also discussed schooling and career options for students. Prial said the nation is in a deficit with the demand for technicians, so UTI wants to raise awareness that corporations like Toyota and Ford need skilled technicians proficient in STEM.
It’s also a good time for younger technicians, as many were born with technology at their fingertips.
“Everything has an app to it. As of 2015, vehicles have to be equipped with backup cameras,” she said. “Just with all of the bells and whistles that come along with modern day vehicles, we need technicians.”
Snover saw the demos as a great opportunity for his students, as hands-on programs help prepare them for the real world whether they decide to pursue automotive careers or not.
“We have a lot of students who take it for personal knowledge so they can either do the work themselves or at least are knowledgeable when they go to a dealership or shop to have work done,” he said. “The students talk all the time about how much money it’s saving them.”
For those who do want to work in the industry, Tunkhannock has opportunities for students to earn the necessary certifications.
These automotive skills can even transfer into other career paths, he said.
“Their thought process as a technician is very desirable by multiple facets. It doesn’t have to just be automotive,” Snover said.
Sergey Montross, a Tunkhannock senior, found the UTI demonstrations interesting and informative.
“I liked how they started up everything using a computer, and running the truck using a computer. I thought it was pretty cool, the different technology they have,” Montross said.
He has plans to enlist in the Navy right out of high school, but finds the automotive curriculum personally beneficial.
“It’s good to have if you want to know how to do certain things like oil changes, changing a tire... You don’t have to spend as much money because you can just do it yourself,” Montross said.