Waxahachie High School automotive students have the opportunity to incorporate hands-on learning to give them a leg up upon graduation — all while providing a service to the community.

Ahead of the first day of class, the WHS automotive instructors provided the full tour of the new facility to the Daily Light and explained how it would better prepare students to start a career within the transportation, distribution, and logistics career cluster.

“My ultimate goal is to get the kids through here and go to a technical school with a pretty good head start,” Jason Buster, an automotive instructor, relayed.

He then pointed out the quality, name brand equipment spread throughout the garage. The machines consisted of an alignment rack, tire changing machines, a lift system, and filled, brand new toolboxes. Buster relayed how he and his colleague, Jose Barrientos, can indeed provide an experience to prepare students to perform more than just entry-level tasks.

At the former high school campus, the automotive students worked in two separate shops, rather than one giant garage. In addition to the new space helping with visibility and being able to collaborate, the students have not had the chance to practice on a tire alignment machine on campus but now will have several tire changing devices to work with opposed to one. This means more opportunities for students to advance.

“The automotive industry changes every day and to keep up with that, you’ve gotta get the right equipment,” Buster emphasized.

The vision was for the students to work with safe, quality machines and to provide as much hands-on learning as possible. He relayed how the lifts at the former campus had safety features but weren’t up to current standards.

Another luxury about the functionality of the automotive facility is the ability to bring aspects of the shop into a structured classroom, as a portable lift is available to haul a vehicle from the shop into the classroom through a roll-up garage door. This function is essential when maintaining a classroom setting while incorporating instruction that would typically take place in the shop.

“It’s better having them in a controlled environment, rather than all spread out,” Barrientos, another automotive instructor, pointed out.

Once school starts, the biggest thing is to get the students trained on the equipment, the two agreed.

Within two school days, the automotive instructors teach about 200 students. Buster also pointed out how area kids also commute to the school for the specifical program, as well. Buster said the facility would bring in more students.

The state-of-the-art facility will also attract customers. Through the Billy Bates Career Technical Education Center front entry, campus visitors can check in and then sit in a commercial-like waiting area, like they would at any automotive service provider.

Buster and Barrientos envision the students providing services to customers in the mock auto mechanics shop. But, this feature will not be available to the public until the 2019-20 school year — in the meantime, services will be provided to WISD teachers.

“The students have never been taught to work on a customer’s vehicle. It’s always their own vehicle,” Buster relayed. “So it’s teaching them the etiquette. As we progress and get more professional, we’ll start opening up to the public.”

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450