Students work in the $2.1million state-of-the-art renovation in auto shop at Nogales High in Rowland Unified. (Staff photo by Watchara Phomicinda)

Just like a child with new toys, the automotive technology program students at Nogales High School were excited to test out the new equipment in their renovated auto garage during a special reopening on Tuesday, May 15, at the La Puente campus.

The $2.1 million state-of-the-art modernization, made possible by a state grant and district bond funds, features an engine dynamometer, or dyno, to teach students how to test, tune and analyze emissions of internal combustion engines and an AutoDyn 30, a dynamometer for testing the whole vehicle.

"The technology is getting deeper and deeper," said automotive instructor Michael McCarthy. "This is a footstep to the (automotive) industry."

The original school auto shop was constructed in 1962 and in desperate need of an upgrade.

"When I came here (six years ago), it looked like an auto shop would look like in 1963. It was dark, old equipment," said Nogales principal Dr. Nancy Padilla. "We gutted the room, then they came and painted the walls and put in all (the new) equipment."

Other new equipment includes a flow bench, computer systems for each machine with software for data acquisition, a new tubing bender, a MIG welder, TIG welder, two rim clamp tire changers, tire balancer, iron worker and the infrastructure needed to support the new equipment and electrical upgrades, motorized rollups for moving engines in and out of the shop and in-ground lifts.

Padilla said the school and

district understand that realistically not all students will go to a traditional college or university when they graduate high school.

"Some students say, `I don't want to go to college,' but then they say, `Oh, there's a college for racing cars?', and then they're interested," she said.

"We're trying to think of the future," said Rocky Bettar, director of Career Preparation/Adult Education for Rowland Unified School District. "We're trying to find out what it is you want students

Students change a tire in the Auto Technology Program facility at Nogales High. (Staff photo by Watchara Phomicinda)
to come out with when they leave (high school). What kind of skills you want to give them."

Daniel Terrazas, senior admissions representative for WyoTech, a technical career training college, was also on hand for the opening to offer students information about their options after high school.

"This is awesome," he said. "A lot of schools are closing their auto shops. They're taking away the students' exposure."

WyoTech not only has automotive technology programs but other trades as well, such as electrician, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), marine specialist and more.

"The trades are always going to be needed. Trades are making money," said Terrazas. "It's not just opening up a hood, you can go into different avenues."

Nogales alumnus Enrique Melendez also asked to be a part of the grand reopening. He is an admissions representative for Universal Technical Institute (UTI), that offers mechanic training.

"I feel proud that (the school and district) took the money to invest in the students," he said. "I think the (new technical equipment) will be a tremendous help and a big motivator for the students."

The new equipment will give students an advantage and familiarity if they choose to continue to a technical trade college since dynos are used in many auto facilities, including UTI.

"You have to think about where (automotive technology) is going," said Padilla. "(Students) need to be better diagnosticians. They're learning about alternative fuel."

McCarthy has gone through a lot of training to learn about the new equipment. Padilla said she would like McCarthy to get certified in smog checks so it can be taught to program students as well.

She would also like to partner with more businesses in the future as they have recently done with O'Reilly Auto Parts.

"We want students to see another side of the (automotive) industry," she said. "Our goal of course is school to career. This is just the tip of the iceberg that they're learning here."

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