Decatur Central prepares students with high-tech classroom


INDIANAPOLIS - Finding a job in today's economic climate has been a grim prospect for many Hoosiers.

But area schools have already taken innovative steps to prepare their students for the demands of tomorrow. It's a classroom aimed at a high-tech and highly skilled workforce on the city's southwest side.

The classroom, packed with computers, electronics and robotics, is focused on the assembly line of the future.

"Almost all factories today are automated, which goes in with computer-integrated manufacturing. How do we get from Point A to Point B in creating this part?" said Decatur Central junior Blair Francis.

Francis is working with some high-tech Lego blocks to design and build machinery.

"We've got some students who are working right now, kind of setting up, simulating a manufacturing line," said instructor Rob Weisbach. "So they're working with people on either side of them, moving a single part down the manufacturing line and every time it stops, something is added to it."

This is one of dozens of Indiana schools that are part of "Project Lead The Way," which provides high-tech engineering guidance for high schools. The program came to Decatur Central five years ago. Since then, it has grown to more than 130 students from freshmen on up to seniors who take part in the program.

"Indianapolis is probably one of the premier areas for light manufacturing and logistics. We're not talking about people who just sit down and watch parts go by, these are people who know how to get in and program, or get in and change things," said .

Nearly a half-million workers in Indiana are employed in manufacturing. There is growing demand for those with advanced manufacturing skills.

"These students will earn a very good living and that's the nice part about it, this is not just simple button pushing," said Weisbach.

"I just love how you're actually able to build things. That's one thing that most classes won't allow you to do, it's more hands-on experience," said Weisbach.

The technology here even makes the grown-ups feel like kids again.

"I'm 45 years old and I was here for an hour after school, just sitting down watching the thing run, because it's fun," said Weisbach.

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