Students explore career options [The Decatur Daily, Ala.]
(Decatur Daily (AL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 17--Hartselle Junior High School's Dalton Kulick leaned in and stood on his toes to watch classmates hold, roll and toss dry ice "ghost bubbles."
When a warm quarter stuck in a block of dry ice began to "dance" back and forth on its own, a wide grin accompanied his already widening eyes.
Kulick was one of about 1,500 eighth-grade students from the Decatur, Hartselle and Morgan County school systems who attended the inaugural Endless Opportunities Hands-On Career Expo at Ingalls Harbor on Wednesday.
Area professionals operated booths in 16 career categories.
Outside in the rain, students in bright yellow hard-hats launched model rockets with officials from United Launch Alliance, while student-operated police, fire and ambulance sirens echoed from the other side of the building.
Inside, groups of 40 or more gathered around Alabama Technology Network's table, programming a robotic arm to grab pieces of candy and place them on a conveyor belt.
Kulick said the event didn't spark career plans, but the bubbles at Ascend's chemical engineering exhibit and ATN's robots gave him a respect for workers in those fields.
"I'm not really sure what I want to go into," he said. "The robots over there were really cool. And I didn't know you could make a bubble with dry ice."
Industry representatives working the booths said a lot of students stopped by.
"We've had two or three who have said, 'I'm really thinking about starting my own business when I'm older,' " Larry Waye said. Waye is director of the Decatur-Morgan County Entrepreneurial Center and represented the Business Management and Administration field.
He told students who stopped by his table about two Decatur High School students who created Jack Tar Clothing, an apparel brand inspired by Guy Harvey and similar maritime wear, bearing a logo they designed. He said they began selling shirts a year ago and now are in talks with a manufacturer for production on a broader scale.
"That's all I'm doing," Waye said, "encouraging these kids not to wait. You've got a dream. You've got an idea. Go do it."
Nearby, students donned virtual reality goggles and a plastic spray-paint gun in a body shop training simulator.
Evan Barnett from Priceville Middle School said he went to that booth first.
"That's actually what I wanted to try," he said. "My brother works on cars, and I usually work with him. I think that would be fun."
The simulator showed students their results using different colors to display where paint was sprayed too thick or thin and any texturing they may have added. Glenn Winton, who teaches automotive repairs and related skills at Brewer High School, said the virtual trainer is more difficult than painting in real life.
Barnett fared better than most and walked away with a smile, though the results said most of the car doors needed more paint.
Nucor Steel's manufacturing exhibit drew a steady crowd. The table had an array of metal ores used in manufacturing steel, as well as a handful of parts produced at the end of the process.
Students held the items, tried on the large, heat-resistant gloves and played a short video game in which players directed the process of steel production before calculating profit.
J.D. Oaks from Priceville Middle School said he enjoyed the game at Nucor's table and was interested in a similar career.
"I like working on mechanical stuff like that," he said. "I didn't know anything about how steel is made, but the whole thing is pretty cool."
Oak Park Middle School's Caroline Gregory attempted her first intubation on an asthmatic training dummy. Using a camera inserted into the "patient's" mouth, she lowered a breathing tube between the vocal chords and into the trachea to pump air in and out.
Gregory, who wants to become a physical therapist, said the experience was eye-opening.
"I didn't know all that they did when they put you to sleep," she said. "I thought it was really cool."
Mark Branon, Calhoun Community College's Allied Heath department chair, said he had more girls try the technique than boys, and the girls were better.
"It's the same thing you'd do in an operating room," he said, "which is a male-dominated field. So it's good to see the girls stepping up in non-traditional roles."
Cody Muzio can be reached at 256-340-2443 or email@example.com.
(c)2013 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.)
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