Evanston Township High School celebrated the upgrades to its Advanced Manufacturing Lab at an open house on Nov. 10. In attendance were District 202 administrators, Board members, ETHS teachers, parents, students and alums, along with community members and supporters. Photo by Genie Lemieux-Jordan

By Kelley Elwood

Evanston Township High School showed off its newly renovated Advanced Manufacturing Lab at an open house Nov. 10. The space features new high-tech welding and fabrication equipment that enhances the curriculum in the Career & Technical Education (CTE) Department.

“To think we are in a high school and experiencing this is amazing,” said Dr. Eric Witherspoon, ETHS superintendent. “There are small businesses that would kill for a facility like this.”

The ETHS Educational Foundation spearheaded a fundraising effort in 2014 that generated more than $450,000 in donations from alumni, parents, foundations, and corporations including ITW/Miller Electric Mfg. Co., the Cless Family Foundation and the Winifred Guthrie Anderson Fund.

The lab opened over the summer with art and metal classes and expanded class offerings at the beginning of the school year.  1 Manufacturing, for example, introduces the tools, machines, materials and processes used in the manufacturing industry and helps students explore careers in the manufacturing field. Manufacturing Engineering allows students to explore fundamentals of computerized manufacturing technology. Students can earn industry-recognized machining certification from the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) in the areas of Measurement, Materials and Safety.

We must make sure every student has the educational foundation for the 21st century,” said Dr. Witherspoon. “Students with all sorts of pathways in mind are using this facility.”

Isaiah Braithwaite, an ETHS sophomore, showed open house visitors around the lab. He is currently taking Metal Sculpture, where he is learning how to use welding and metalworking tools and equipment by creating projects out of metal. Last year, Isaiah took the CTE department’s Geometry in Construction class and helped build a two-story house. He is considering a career in engineering.

Jonathan Lawrence, one of the industrial technology teachers, said an advisory board was created to help shape the lab. “What skills do you want in an employee?” the board was asked. Mr. Lawrence thanked ETHS for “keeping the program alive” when other schools were taking their labs out.

“We need more people in manufacturing,” said Becky Tuchscherer, Group President of Miller Electric. By 2024, there will be a shortage of 400,000 welders nationwide, she said. “There are fantastic jobs available” in manufacturing, and some schools are not able to give out all of their scholarship dollars. “We are looking forward to this lab being put to good use.”

Amy Pratt of the Office of STEM Education Partnerships at Northwestern University attended the open house and said, “the [Northwestern] Ford Building looks like this but bigger. If students here go into engineering in college they will be ready. This is wonderful to see.”