December 18, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 296

Career less traveled

IRONWOOD - High school girls learned more about "non-traditional" career options during career day at Gogebic Community College, Tuesday.

Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe
SOPHOMORE AND junior girls from Wakefield-Marenisco, Ironwood and Bessemer high schools look at the undercarriage of a vehicle at Gogebic Community College, Tuesday. The Gogebic Ontonagon Intermediate School District offered classes on automotive and computer/robotic programs to high school females to help them explore "non-traditional" careers.

Sophomores and juniors from Bessemer, Ironwood and Wakefield-Marenisco signed up to learn more about career options in automotive and computer programming/robotics.

Students joined the high school vocational classes offered at GCC through the Gogebic Ontonagon Intermediate School District.

According to Paulette Niemi, transition coordinator for the GOISD, this was the third event offered for high school girls this year, with two programs in Ontonagon County and one in Gogebic County.

The event at GCC was offered because students are in the process of scheduling classes for next year. Twenty-three girls signed up for the automotive class and 15 signed up for the computer programming/robotics class.

"Even if we get one girl to sign up for these classes, it will have been a success," Niemi said.

In the automotive department, students rotated to five different stations, focusing on different aspects of automotive care. According to automotive instructor Ed Gorman, the girls were a "little afraid" when the first started. However, as the day wore on, the girls became less and less nervous.

"They even got their hands dirty," Gorman said. "Getting more females in the automotive department has been a battle for many years. This has been a traditionally male-dominated field, but we need more women. Two of the best technicians I ever met were both women."

Students learned how to change the oil and replace a filter in a vehicle, check fluids under the hood, remove a tire and repair it, understand the functions of the parts under the car and see how a vehicle is aligned with a computer.

"Even if these students don't sign up for the automotive class next year, they can still take with them things they can do with their own personal vehicles," Niemi said.

With robotics, students learned quite bit in a short amount of time, according to instructor Jim Halverson.

"They learned how to make a robot move, programmed bumper cars, chased an infrared ball, created an automated warehouse with a line counter and made a robot follow any line, all before lunch," Halverson said. "It's been a ball."

Participants used Legos to create the robots, and used object-oriented, event driven programming to get their robots moving.

"It's just like on a computer," Halverson said. "When you have a window open, and you want to exit, you click the exit button and it closes. With robots, they hit a wall, they turn around. It's the same programming."

Claire Jackson, a junior at A.D. Johnston High School in Bessemer, is the only female student in Halverson's class.

"It's a fun class, and I don't think girls know how fun it really is," Jackson said. "This way, they can see what we do."

Jackson said she became interested in the program after Halverson spoke at her school.

"I would definitely recommend girls look into this class," Jackson said. "It really is a lot of fun."

As for future events, Niemi said GOISD will also offer program events on welding and building trades for females.

"We want to encourage girls to look at non-traditional career options," Niemi said. "We'll schedule the welding and building trade events in the future, and we know girls really like to come to those as well."

For more information, call the Gogebic Ontonagon Intermediate School District at 906-575-3438.