New lab gives students glimpse into the future

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Knight High School composites instructor, Briana Gallegos, left, talks with visitors to the new Composites Lab at the Palmdale School, Aug. 26. A ribbon cutting ceremony took place at the school to give district and community officials a chance to view the new lab, which ties into Knight High School's Digital Design & Engineering Academy. (Photograph by Evelyn Kristo)

In the early 1960s, people talked about the Global Village; but these days finds them living in and headed toward the future in a Composites World.

Antelope Valley Union High School District and Knight High School paved the way to prepare students for careers in that world by constructing a composites laboratory with all the tools and equipment needed for hands-on experience in the fields of aeronautic, civil and mechanical engineering. During an Aug. 26 ribbon-cutting ceremony, Valley officials, educators and others toured the new facility with wide-eyed awe.

AV Union High School District Superintendent David Vierra welcomed the crowd and said, this is “an outstanding program we’re getting to start.”

“Something like this does not happen without strong partnerships within the community,” said Betsy McKinstry, director of Career Technical Education. “Our district leadership team allowed a project like this to move forward.”

Funding at the state level for Career Technical Education also helped, McKinstry added, expressing her gratitude for that support because more times than not bureaucracy in education involves a system that must be navigated.

Knight Prep students, Emiliano Pureco, 12, and Marissa Perdomo, 13, check out materials made at the new Knight High School composites lab. The future Knight High students were at the Palmdale School, Aug. 26 for a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony for the lab. (Photograph by Evelyn Kristo)

McKinstry praised each of the leadership team members that brought the concept to fruition.

Diane Walker, director of Industry Liaison and Post-Secondary Partnerships for the high school district, “strengthened our partnership with industry and the community college,” McKinstry said.

McKinstry credited Eryk Frias, the Engineering Pathway teacher and Robotics adviser at Lancaster High School, with the ability to move the Composites Lab plans forward.

Composites play an integral role in the regional work force, according to McKinstry.

“We didn’t want to just talk theory with out kids,” said James Stockdale, the Academy Coordinator who teaches Digital Electronics & Engineering Design.

Stockdale said the idea was to have students practice working with the instruments and materials. Although the lab was cleaned for guests, that’s not what they would see when work is in progress. The room would have sawdust all around.

Community and Antelope Valley Union High School District visitors take an up close and personal tour of the new Knight High School Composites Lab, Aug. 26 at the Palmdale School. The lab is part of the school’s Digital Design & Engineering Academy. (Photograph by Evelyn Kristo)

Briana Gallegos, teacher in the Manufacturing Prototyping Class, is the first instructor to teach in the facility. Students in her class will learn the process for creating composites parts. Products like carbon fiber and fiberglass “are often used in aerospace applications, building planes,” she said.

Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin both hire locally for building their planes, Gallegos noted. “I’m teaching some of the basic skills to do that. It’s a lot of fun. It’s very hands-on. The students love that part of it. It’s a trade skill they can do. They don’t need to be an engineer for building the plane.”

However, Gallegos said, “these skills will make better engineers.”

Bryan Anguiano, a field representative for State Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, presented school district officials with a Certificate of Recognition for their insightful thinking.

Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer, escorted by Trish Jones, the city Community Programs Supervisor, presented a Certificate of Recognition for the school district’s accomplishment.

“I asked a kid about one of these contraptions,” Hofbauer said, referring to some lab equipment. “It’s over my head.” He told the crowd that he’s proud to be part of this Valley.

“The jobs are opening up,” Hofbauer said. Because of the training students are receiving, he added, they “can start a job and hit the ground running.”

Antelope Valley Union High School District Superintendent, Dr. David Vierra , left, and board member, Jill McGrady cut the ribbon on the new Knight High School Composites Lab in Palmdale, Aug. 26. The lab is part of the school’s Digital Design & Engineering Academy. (Photograph by Evelyn Kristo)

Among her tasks at the city, Jones supervises the Partners Academy, all the volunteer programs and the Job Academy, which is geared toward preparing young people for the workforce by teaching them interview skills, appropriate work clothes, and everything that can make them a successful employee.

“I had an opportunity the last couple of years to be on review panels,” Jones said. Students are not only getting an education, but also skills to handle issues in their personal lives.

Sylvia Duarte, president of the Antelope Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said she wants the students to learn how to become entrepreneurs and how to succeed in life.

“I want to take this class,” said 12-year old Myranda Ramirez, an 8th grade student at Academy Prep Knight Junior High. “I want to maybe be a chemical engineer.”

Asked why she’s considering a career in engineering, Myranda said, “I think it’s really cool and exciting. I find it fascinating.”

Trish Jones, right, City of Palmdale Community Programs Supervisor, discusses the city’s mentoring partnership with Knight High School’s Digital Design & Engineering Academy during a ribbon cutting ceremony, Aug. 26, at the Palmdale School, to celebrate its new composites lab. Also pictured from left are Knight High School Principal Will Laird, Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer and Academy Coordinator James Stockdale. (Photograph by Evelyn Kristo
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Bret Banks, executive director of the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District, said, “We did some work with Mr. Stockdale a couple of years ago.” The Air Quality District provided funding for the purchase of an Electric Car kit. Students from Knight High built that car one semester. The following semester they gave the car to students at Antelope Valley High School. Those students would take the car apart. Knight High and AV High swapped the cars every semester so students at each school had the chance to put the car together or take it apart.

“Mr. Stockdale is pretty progressive in these programs,” Banks said.

One day students taking classes in the Composites Lab could potentially apply for a job at the Air Quality District.

“A lot of the manufacturing they’re doing here in industry would require Air Quality review,” Banks said. “So the kids are getting a background in that.”