WOODBURY — Vo-ag students at Nonnewaug High School are using brand-new electronic simulators to learn the basics of electricity and circuitry, which is especially important in today’s world because cars, trucks and even tractors now operate using complicated technology that is ever-changing.
Agri-Science Director Ed Belinsky said the hands-on learning beats a textbook and a chalkboard every time.
“We’re trying to get these kids prepared for the 21st century. Agricultural mechanics is moving as fast as the rest of the world. Tractors aren’t the same as they were just 10 years ago.,” Belinsky said.
The devices, new to the school this year, are designed to simulate computer systems, electrical control units and sensors that can be found in just about every piece of modern equipment. By operating the simulators, students are tasked with completing a system of exercises where they must analyze, diagnose and fix electrical circuits.
On Friday, mechanics students were busy working in pairs across eight boards, which simulated things like headlights, automatic windows, car locks and other gadgets found in a typical automobile.
“You need to be a problem solver to figure this out,” Belinsky said. “So how do you figure out technology that hasn’t been invented yet? These simulators really help with that by giving students the foundation to be able to tackle it all.”
The simulators were originally created specifically for General Motors, which recognized that it had to properly teach its own mechanics how to work with the elaborate electrical systems they now install.
Belinsky said the simulators, purchased through a cost-sharing grant from state and local funds, draw in all sorts of mathematics, as well giving kids the opportunity to apply things like Ohm’s Law — a basic law of electricity.
“It really helps being able to take what we learned in the classroom on paper and apply it to real life, learning from our mistakes and applying it to real-life situations,” said student PJ Peters.
Sean Ruggerio said hands-on learning is the best.
“With this, we can actually see what everything does, how everything works and it will give us more knowledge when working on tractors, cars, trucks or whatever,” he said.
Tyler Leonard works part-time for Brothers Tree Service of Middlebury. He said things he’s learned at Nonnewaug have helped him on the job where he often fixes equipment.
Region 14 Director of Teaching & Learning Wendy Nelson Kauffman attended the unveiling of the school’s new simulators and noted how engaged students were in solving “real-world” problems using what they have learned in the classroom. She said it is all part of Region 14’s mission to promote learning through communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.