Tonawanda News


October 6, 2013

More than bridges

Real-world experience pays off for NT engineering academy students

Tonawanda News — During the months classically reserved for rest and relaxation — and maybe, a part-time job for pocket cash — a group of North Tonawanda High School students instead spent their summer hours visiting engineering job sites, working on architectural drawings and otherwise learning the ropes for their future.

Thirteen seniors from the school’s Academy of Engineering and Architecture took part in internships at 10 local companies this past summer, a requirement for the four-year, pre-university program that is now in its eighth year. And this year, more than ever before have been invited to return as actual employees, said Chris Cook, teacher and co-director of the academy.

“They’re going to be that much further ahead than other students they’re competing with,” he said. “It’s real-world experience. A big thing New York state is starting to push is career readiness. We’re been pushing career readiness for eight years.”

Students in the academy are required to take part in about 55 hours of internships their senior year. This year they are serving those hours at the City of North Tonawanda Engineering Department, Kideney Architects, Cannon Design, Safespan, Siracuse Engineers, Aquasol Corp., Taylor Devices, Danforth Co., Aero Instruments & Avionics, HDM Hydraulics and Mark Cerrone Inc. Experiences ranged from those as simple as answering office phones and filing to working on plans and visiting sites.

Student Kyle Bortz had worked for Safespan in Tonawanda before, he said, but that was “more grunt work.” Over the summer, he worked on computer-assisted design and bringing design drawings up to date — experience he just couldn’t get in school, he said.

“In a classroom, it’s more theoretical. You can see the parts, but you can’t touch them,” Bortz said. “When you’re out ... seeing the parts, putting them together, you experience a lot more than you ever could in a classroom. The experience is so much more beneficial.”

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