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Classes offer pathway to practical engineering skills

November 4, 2012
By ADELLE WHITEFOOT - Journal Ishpeming Bureau ( , The Mining Journal

NEGAUNEE - High school students wanting to go into engineering or many other trades can benefit from taking a computer-aided design, or CAD, class.

Negaunee High School has a four-year program for such students.

Freshmen can start in the basic drafting CAD classes right away and then move up from there. Negaunee offers drafting, mechanical, architectural and advance CAD classes. The classes require a lot of cross curricular skills, said Kevin Bell, industrial technology teacher at Negaunee High School.

Article Photos

Students in Negaunee High School’s computer-aided design classes work to get a jump on college coursework. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)

"There's writing because they have to write a 35-page proposal in the senior class," Bell said. "They also have to use their math skills; there's a lot of material testing that we do and most of all computer skills. They have to be really good on a computer."

In the drafting class, students start out learning to draw using T-squares before moving on to CAD. In the mechanical class, students work on creating 3-D models, and in the architectural class they work on just that, architecture.

The advanced CAD class is a little different. The students work on a Michigan Department of Transportation civil engineer project that takes up most of the year, Bell said. The project is building a bridge to use to compete in the MDOT Transportation and Civil Engineering Design and Bridge Build Challenge in March. The class is also signed up to compete in the national competition in May.

"A lot of the seniors are in advanced math and advanced chemistry," Bell said. "They're usually going to go into some field of engineering or something similar."

Jake Kari, a senior at Negaunee, is currently taking the advanced CAD class. After high school, he is planning to study something related to engineering. He's currently looking at Michigan Tech University and the University of Michigan.

"I'm not sure if it will be CAD specifically, but in pretty much every engineer program you are going to need to know CAD," Kari said.

Kari said he originally took the drafting CAD class because it was a prerequisite for wood class and ended up sticking with the CAD program.

"I like that the projects I do in here have a real world application," Kari said. "I just like being able to know that the stuff we are doing actually could be useful."

Any student at Negaunee who completes the four-year CAD program can get advanced placement in college courses, Bell said. A student who completes the program and goes to Northern Michigan University or Ferris State University will automatically receive four college credits.

"That's kind of a feather in their cap ..." Bell said. "Most engineering programs require you to know CAD and they're going to have that knowledge, where if a person goes into a program without that knowledge they may have a difficult time.

"So they have a big jump on any college they choose to go to just because of the different softwares they know."

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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