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Metals students race dragsters, meet industry

-  Advanced manufacturing students at Sandy High show the skills that are preparing them for careers


Students and family gathered in the stands at Sandy High School’s gym to watch manufacturing students race their CO2 dragsters Thursday, Feb. 20. The event was the first to happen publicly.

Despite a few snags, the event was a success, and four students walked away with brass medals constructed by their classmates, and a tangible reminder of the skills they have acquired.

The students of the advanced manufacturing class worked for several months putting together the designs of their cars. Unlike most CO2 dragster projects that are made of wood, these cars were made from metal and state of the art equipment.

Paul Panula, metals teacher at Sandy High, told attendees at Thursday’s event that the students worked tirelessly on their tiny cars. Panula even had a slide show to illustrate the process behind the dragsters.

The racers used fishing line to keep the cars on track as they sped through the gym. The top three cars received medals for first, second and third place, and guest judges from local manufacturing businesses chose best in show.

Levi Hoff took third place, Connor Graham was second and Brody White was first. Jacob Evens’ car was selected best in show for overall design. Volunteers from Northwest Technologies, Trillium Machine, Cascade Precision and Boeing showed up to help judge the cars. Panula even had one of his past students, who now holds a job with Northwest Technologies, join in as an expert.

The advanced students put in their time after school to construct the medals out of brass stock. A CNC machine was used to generate the text.by: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - First, second, third and best in show winners Brody White, Connor Graham, Levi Hoff and Jacob Evens.

Panula said when CO2 dragsters are constructed out of wood, as they usually are, they are fairly simple to make, but these dragsters are made out of metal, and nowhere near as easily constructed. The CO2 dragster project is challenging for students and usually isn’t done until their senior year at Sandy High.

Students used manufacturing technology that requires them to hand code their own programs. Panula said the program of the first-place finisher, White, was more than five pages long.

In January, the manufacturing program received part of a $324,281 career and technical education revitalization grant awarded to the Clackamas Education Service District. The grant is meant to help the high school program keep up to date with all the necessary equipment and technology.

With that money they were able to purchase a new CNC machine, which the advanced students used to help construct the frames for their cars.

“It’s being put to good use,” Panula said.

But the manufacturing program is not all about making tiny race cars — it’s about preparing students for a career, Panula said.

“These are opportunities that we’re providing to our students so that they have options,” said Debbie Johnson, director of teaching and learning for the Oregon Trail School District. “The goal is to launch them directly into post-secondary education, trade schools and careers.”by: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - The final race of the day decided the first- and second-place winners.

The average age of a welder today is 55.

Eventually, that population is going to retire and there will be a tremendous demand by those employers for skilled employees.

“The facility here is pretty impressive,” Panula said. “Our district really values the hands on trades.”

The program at Sandy High School is meant to prepare students to be either work ready or ready to go on to a post-secondary education program at a community college for certification.

Panula said he’s seen his students take different routes, but they always have those skills to fall back on if needed.

“As long as students are being successful, that’s what matters,” he said.