Westside Engineering and Technology Department Receives Recognition

Sophomore+Ava+Steele+works+on+a+project+for+Engineering.
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Westside Engineering and Technology Department Receives Recognition

Sophomore Ava Steele works on a project for Engineering.

Sophomore Ava Steele works on a project for Engineering.

Max Frost

Sophomore Ava Steele works on a project for Engineering.

Max Frost

Max Frost

Sophomore Ava Steele works on a project for Engineering.

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Westside Engineering and Technology instructor Tyler Foster said he enjoys teaching because there is something special about helping students prepare for their futures.

“Our goals for this department are always trying to build partnerships between business and industry, so we’re always looking to make sure that what we offer and what we’re teaching is going to help students,” Foster said.

The Westside Engineering and Technology department’s efforts were recently rewarded, as they received the Program Excellence award from the Nebraska Association of Skilled and Technical Science Educations. This signifies that Westside’s department was chosen as the best in the state. Foster said he attributes this to the vast array of classes and various hands-on experiences Westside offers for its Engineering and Technology students. Westside offers job experience to students in partnership with Metropolitan Community College, as well as other business partnerships.

“We have a lot of really great courses that we offer, and we also have really good extracurriculars that we offer,” Foster said.

Foster said that students reap the benefits of the program in their future. Many not only learn skills important to their future jobs, but also important in life. Additionally, students receive a leg up from being involved in Westside extracurriculars such as Skills USA, a competition and training program for various trades, robotics club and engineering peer mentoring. Freshman STEM student Zoe Sundermeier attested to the important opportunities offered to students through the department. According to Sundermeier, programs such as the partnership with Metro Community College are beneficial to students in the future.

“Metro college comes in to [engineering classes],  explains stuff for our future and teaches [us skills], so you won’t have to take that class in college,” Sundermeier said.

Foster said these opportunities not only provide benefits now, but in the future as well.

“I think having these opportunities for students and allowing students to take advantage of as many of these opportunities as they can makes them a more well-rounded student,” Foster said. “When they get out [to the workforce], they might not become a carpenter, but taking a simple class will help in their daily life in the future.”

Foster also pointed to an increasing need for jobs in engineering and technology careers and the ability for those in these fields to flourish. In order to gain experience in these fields, Foster said he encourages students to fully utilize their available classes and extracurriculars.

“There aren’t enough electricians, there aren’t enough plumbers, there aren’t enough skilled carpenters to take [current job holders’] place when they retire,” Foster said. “As the shortage of skilled workers [increases], the demand is going to be higher. So, now is a great opportunity for students to get involved and take advantage of our clubs and classes to become exposed to things they might not know about otherwise.”

Sundermier said she holds her experiences in engineering classes in high regard, not just because of the material, but because of the educators as well. Additionally, she said that if the classwork becomes difficult, the various engineering educators are always happy to lend a helping hand.

“They’re really funny and nice and they can explain things different ways so you can understand,” Sundermeier said. “Everything is hands-on and really fun, and we have some technology and tools that other schools might not have access to.”

For Foster, teaching isn’t just about students learning the material. A believer in impacting students in various ways, Foster explained that to him, leaving students with some form of new knowledge is what drives him as an educator.

“I think youth are full of energy and curiosity and they’re very interesting people to get to know,” Foster said. “I hope I can impart some sort of knowledge, whether it’s related to my content area or whether it’s just a life skill.”

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