TRAVERSE CITY — A class of eighth-grade students sat quietly, and patiently listened to an engineering presentation in a Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Career-Tech Center classroom.
The speech was one of 21 they’d hear in the next two hours. Yawns escaped from a few students.
Suddenly, a yellow robot revved out from behind a desk. Manufacturing Technology Academy instructor Tim Wheatley’s plan worked. He suddenly had a captive audience.
Wheatley said he participates in the Career-Tech Center’s eighth-grade orientation each year to show students they can apply concepts that may seem dry in the classroom to exciting, real-life situations.
“I want them to see these cool things. I want them to see there’s actual utility for that math,” he said.
About 1,450 eighth grade students from across Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties will have filtered through the Career-Tech Center in three days of orientation by the end of today.
The annual event teaches students about career training opportunities available to expand their high school experience. The Career-Tech Center offers classes for six career paths: arts and communication; business, marketing and technology; health sciences; human services; natural resources and agriscience; and engineering, manufacturing and industrial technology.
The orientation is the first time some students have been asked to give serious thought to a career path. Career-Tech Center principal Patrick Lamb said it is important to get students thinking about their career interests before they enter high school.
“We want to get them in the building and give them a flavor of what is available to them,” Lamb said.
Students in the five-county region can start taking technical, career-focused classes at the center once they hit their junior year of high school.
Sonja Stairs already knows she wants to take Career-Tech Center classes once she’s in high school. Stairs, an eighth grade student at Glen Lake Community Schools, said the orientation helped her figure out career fields that interest her.