By Natalie Crawford, CourtesyJune 25, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Typical days in the Auto Skills Center do not involve teenagers. However, for the past two and a half months, this shop has been home to the Child Youth and School Services new "The Edge program: Introduction to Auto Mechanics" for ages 13-18.
With the help of Bill Woosley, Auto Skills manager, and the rest of the staff, these teens have put in many hours of work resulting in the full inspection and assembly of a Ford 302 cubic inch V-8 working engine.
Parents were invited to watch the students show off their accomplishment and start up the completed engine June 9. Smiling faces and high-fives could be seen from the class as they fired up the engine for everyone to hear. The roar of the machine caught the attention of others working in the shop, who stopped by to admire the handiwork.
"They started and ran the engine so much that they ran the battery down and we had to continue starting it with our portable jump starter," said Woosley, the primary teacher of the course.
Woosley has been the business manager for the Auto Skills Center for 10 years. He became interested in cars early in life.
"At age 10 or 11, I became accustomed to watching my dad when he worked on the family car. Eventually, he let me do more than just hand him tools. I got my first car when I was 13. I gave three days hard work at a family friend's wrecking yard to get the car. I was as proud of that old '49 Chevrolet fastback as a kid could be," he said. "You know ... you never forget your first car!"
To prepare the students for the rest of the class, Woosley said he "gave them the same safety class that the adults receive with issuance of Shop Safety Card. I also closely monitored their actions and would stop the operation if I spotted a safety violation about to happen. I would ask the class if they could spot the safety violation. If they couldn't spot the violation, I would inform them what it was and the proper procedures to prevent the violation from happening. After awhile, they were critiquing themselves for safety."
The students not only learned safety, welding, sandblasting and engine mechanics to build the motor but other automotive skills such as changing, rotating and balancing tires.
"These students really impressed me from the start. Their desire impressed me," Woosley said. "They started this program as individuals and ended up working as a team --- a very good one at that."
The teacher was not the only one pleased with the end result. Parents are impressed with the lessons their children have learned this semester.
"I think it was a great opportunity for all the boys to have hands-on experience at something they really enjoy and there are great teachers at Auto Skills," Karen Freeman said.
Many adults are so awed with the teen's accomplishment that they have expressed an interest in taking a similar class.
"This program was just awesome," said Nerissa Santos, whose son participated this semester. "I'm very impressed with the engine they built and my son enjoyed every minute of it. I wish there was something like this when I was growing up."
Kevin Frankson, Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation partnership specialist, has been working to develop new and exciting classes for school-age children through the Edge program.
"I look for possible programs throughout FMWR that will appeal to youth," Frankson said. "The Edge program is an after-school program that concentrates on four areas: art, fitness, life-skills and adventure. This allows me to work with all divisions of FMWR."
Other Edge classes have included bowling, archery and skateboarding. Frankson said these types of classes are valuable as "it's important to learn these types of skills because it is something they can take with them into adulthood."
There seems to be no doubt that the class has sparked a new interest for these students.
"The most exciting experience I had was starting the engine. Just revving it up gave me chills. I think we should continue the class," Jeffery Freeman, a student in the class, said.
Woosley has big plans for future classes. "We're currently looking for a vehicle to install the engine they've just built," he said. "We're also looking for a complete vehicle for the students to learn body work, interior work and electrical along with doing another engine and possibly transmission work. We're still formulating plans for the next class."
The Edge engine will be on display at the Auto Skills Center during normal business hours: Wednesday through Friday from 1:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information, call the Auto Skills Center at 955-7727.
The Edge program, offered by Child Youth and School Services, is free with transportation provided to and from the Youth Center. For more information, call FMWR Partnership at 842-3202.