Summit High School students get exposure to electrical trades with escape room activity
Welding and construction teacher says community should support kids who are passionate about the trades
Not everyone is meant to go to college, and Summit High School does what it can to support its students who might not want to take that path.
Summit High School’s Oakley Van Oss is proud to teach the basics of welding and construction technology, but on Wednesday, Dec. 1, his students were exposed to another trade: electrician.
In an effort to expose more kids to the industry, Colorado-based commercial electrical contractor Encore Electric brings what it calls a mobile escape room to schools and events around the state.
David Scott, Encore’s director of human resources, said he learned about Summit High School’s career and technical education programs from the Summit Daily News and reached out to Van Oss to connect.
The so-called escape room, which does not require an actual escape, is housed inside a trailer and gives participants the opportunity to simulate the wiring for a few common household items, including an outlet, a fan, a lamp and a three-way switch. Scott said it’s perfectly safe and that all the wiring is behind clear walls so that participants can see what is going on as they work to make the items function.
It’s also timed, and as a student completes one of the items, a light illuminates to signal their success. Once all four items have been wired and all four lights are on, the timer stops.
“It’s a fun way to introduce a new potential career path to people,” Scott said.
Van Oss said he was ecstatic to hear about the program that could expose his students to another trade. He said about 90 students from his welding and construction technology classes, as well as the dual-language versions of these classes, got to participate in the electrical game.
“Doing electrical work might be a little bit challenging, but it’s also really rewarding and fun when you flip that switch and the light comes on,” Van Oss said.
Scott said high schoolers are inherently a bit competitive and that a group of students at Summit High School actually broke the record for the fastest time among about 80 schools that have participated.
Sophomore Daisy Chavira said it was valuable for her and her classmates to learn the benefits of a career as an electrician as well as the other opportunities one can have with experience as an electrician.
“We are still open to every suggestion of what we want for our careers, so I feel like them coming and explaining what their career offers us is a very good thing because we’re still open-minded,” Chavira said.
Van Oss said there were a handful of kids who had the light bulbs in their heads switching on, too, leaving the activity with a new potential career interest.
“It was really inspiring because, in my classes with welding and construction tech, the ultimate goal for me is just to provide them with experience and get them to be more hands-on,” Van Oss said. “If they can have that experience, they like it, and then could have a successful career in the trades. It just makes me so, so happy.”
Sophomore Luke Brewer said the presentation from Encore gave the students valuable information about opportunities to start a career right out of high school.
“It gave us basic knowledge of electrical stuff, and it gave us an idea of what to do after high school besides college,” Brewer said. “For a lot of kids, it’s important, especially if they’re in a financial situation where college isn’t the first option.”
Scott said he doesn’t like how going into the trades is often referred to as an alternative to college. It’s simply another path for the right kid to take after school, he said. When he brings the escape room to schools, he said he always keeps his eye out for the kids who are engaged and excited to continue playing. Those students might be future electricians.
“I want the best and the brightest who also happen to have a mechanical aptitude,” Scott said.
Van Oss agreed, saying that it’s disappointing when he sees a kid who is super passionate about a trade career feel bad that they aren’t considering college, and that is a dialogue he hopes the community can help change.
“I’m really hoping that with the help of the community, we can change that perception and get them excited for going into the trades,” Van Oss said. “If working with your hands is what you want to do, do an apprenticeship; go to a trade school.”
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