Students at the Shelby County Career and Technical Educational Center (CTEC) now have the latest in high-tech automotive technology to practice their skills thanks to a donation of a new 2022 Mercedes sport utility test vehicle from Mercedes Benz US International.
CTEC students and instructors are excited to get to work and learn everything about the new car, which also happens to be right-side driving like cars in Europe. As students walked around admiring the car after its delivery to the school on December 10, one thing was certain and that was their excitement.
“Can I have it?” joked 12th-grade Calera High School student Omar Martinez
“Wow, this is fancy,” said 12th-grade Shelby County High School student Seth Hall as he sat behind the driver’s seat and admired the huge computer display dashboard.
“This is amazing,” said Caleb Taylor, a senior from Chelsea High School. “We have never had a brand-spanking-new vehicle to work on. I am going to enjoy every last minute of my last semester being able to learn about this car.”
According to Julie Godfrey, Career and Technical Education Supervisor for Shelby County Schools, the donation is one of 15 vehicles that were donated to secondary and post-secondary schools by the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa. Thirteen of the new cars were donated to secondary schools across the state, while the other two were donated to local community colleges.
The SUV’s were used for testing and to ensure quality standards. The company says that once quality tests have been completed, the vehicles can’t be sold for customer use or driven on public roads. But they can be used for training in a classroom, rather than being destroyed.
Godfrey said the new car will be used by students in the Automotive Technology, Collision Repair, and Robotics and Automated Manufacturing programs at CTEC. The new car will enable students to learn about the newest electrical and computerized technology that is used in auto manufacturing today.
Automotive technology instructor Robert Irwin said the program currently has a total of 24 vehicles that have previously been donated to the program for instructional purposes, however, the Mercedes donation is the first brand new vehicle to ever be given to the program. The Mercedes car is also the first to feature a diesel engine, which will give students another new learning opportunity.
“I am really excited about my students being able to put their hands on a 2022 vehicle with the newest and most advanced computer technology,” Irwin said. “Normally, my students are not able to be exposed to this newer type of technology unless they go on to a post-secondary automotive program. And our number one goal is to see our students employed.”
Steve Colburn, from Mercedes Human Resources, said that exposing students to those career opportunities is why the auto manufacturer is making this type of investment at the local secondary and post-secondary school level.
“Anytime we can support the technical education career path and encourage students to get involved in careers in the automotive tech industry, that is also a win for us,” Colburn said. “We have to get more students into our pipeline. We need this skillset at our plant.”
Colburn said Mercedes has Mercedes Tech programs Lawson, Beville, Wallace, and Shelton state community colleges,” Colburn said. There is tuition assistance and paid work internships for post-secondary students to learn how to not only be skilled technicians, but also future leaders within the company.
James Hill, the instructor for the Robotics and Automated Manufacturing Program, said he feels it is important for his students to see what a “finished product” looks like that features the types of electronics they are learning about in the classroom. This would include things like the wiring harness, an organized set of wires, terminals, and connectors that run throughout the entire vehicle and relay information and electric power.
“Students need to be able to see what it looks like to build the electronics that would make a car like this run,” Hill said.
Collision Repair instructor Mark McCary agreed that having a vehicle featuring modern technology and materials is a huge benefit to students.
“Things that we are learning about like safety systems, the types of materials that are used to build this type of vehicle, instead of just seeing that on the computer, we will be able to walk to this car and see it,” McCary said.
CTEC Principal, Daniel Richards said community partnerships are so very important to Career Technical Education programs and he is thrilled to have Mercedes as one of those partners.
“I am glad that Mercedes has trust in us and our students and instructors to be given this opportunity as one of the 13 secondary schools to receive this donation,” Richards said. It isn’t every day that we can celebrate a $75,000 car being donated.”
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