Advanced manufacturing program for Salisbury High School takes a step forward

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 26, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — Salisbury High School is one step closer to launching an advanced manufacturing program.

Mandy Mills, director of career and technical education, presented a plan to purchase equipment for the program at Monday’s Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education meeting.

If all goes according to plan, the program would have three areas of specialization: engineering, machining or mechatronics. However, the machining tracks are contingent on receiving a Golden Leaf grant, which the district has applied for. Mills said Monday that she should hear back about the grant in June.

Launching the full program would cost about $1.1 million, including facility upgrades, equipment purchases and industry training for teachers. The grant would cover about $700,000 of the cost.

“The grant will mainly fund facilities upgrades as well as machining equipment,” Mills said.

Mills and other CTE staff requested that the board approve the remaining $432,500, which would come out of the CTE budget. The money would be used to purchase mechatronics, engineering and robotics equipment, which would count as a 25 percent contribution required by the Golden Leaf Foundation.

Mills said that with the board’s approval, Salisbury High would launch a mechatronics track next year regardless of whether the grant is approved.

“So I’m not asking you to approve a purchase that is going to depend on grant funds,” Mills said.

The requested equipment lines up with industry standards and with that used by Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to ensure a smooth transition between programs.

“We want to make this as hands-on as possible and as industry-like as possible,” Mills said. “Because we want students to be able to go straight from this program to work or to further their education at hopefully Rowan-Cabarrus or a four-year college.”

Shawn Campion, president of Integro Technologies, spoke in favor of the program.

He said it would help identify students who might not score high in math and science but who have a “knack” of “intuition” for engineering or mechanics.

Students used to be able to tinker with cars and other machines outside school, he said, but most mechanics are electronically based these days, so there aren’t as many opportunities to discover a passion for machining or engineering. This program would open those doors, he said.

Board members questioned Mills about the longevity of the hardware. Mills said some software might need updating, but the goal is to purchase top-of-the-line equipment. Integro and other local industry leaders were consulted when building the track, as were similar programs in other counties.

“We’re trying to make this a top-notch program,” Mills said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Campion said Integro uses some hardware from the 1980s, so the board could expect the equipment to last “quite some time.”

Salisbury High School Principal Luke Brown also spoke in favor of the program. The school has already allowed students to register for classes in the program. Brown said 307 students signed up for mechatronics and engineering courses, with more than 178 others listed as alternates.

“So they want this,” Brown said.

Board members also questioned whether the program could stand on its own should the grant not be awarded. Mills said the only thing contingent on the grant are the machining classes.

The issue will be listed on the consent agenda at the board’s May 8 work session.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.