ECTC pre-engineering program

Daniel Dye / The Herald

Pre-engineering, drafting and design student Trevor Britt works on plans in Autocad that will become a new building constructed at Elmore County Technical Center.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of stories highlighting programs at the Elmore County Technical Center.

Pre-engineering instructor Mark Wellander has seen the world of drafting and design dramatically chance since his time as a student at Elmore County Technical Center in the late 1970s.

The days of learning the ropes via vellum paper, triangles, drafting boards and ink pens gave way to computers.

Today, his students use software such as AutoCAD for 2D applications, SketchUp for 3D applications, Building Information Modeling (BIM) to aid in estimating project costs and materials, and 3D printers.

“This 3D printer helps us print off parts,” Wellander said. “If you’re willing to spend the money, these printers can be a large as a room. A lot of aircraft companies have those large printers. They can print the fuselage of an airplane, wing components. 

What used to be a prototype machine for non-functional items, companies now have these for actual production. That’s a big change in this industry.”

Wellander said his class is a mix of students who are leaning toward a four-year degree in engineering and students who are curious to know more about what is involved in drafting and design.

“The kids who want to go into engineering are guided by the school counselors to take this program,” he said. “Then you have the kids who don’t plan to do that. We need more of those. You can get into this field and go straight to work as a CAD tech with an engineering or architectural firm. You can make good money doing the drawing for these companies.”

He said the biggest challenge most students face going into this class is learning the skill to visualize.

“Often I’ll tell the kids to close their eyes and imagine a cube,” he said. “Then imagine cutting a cube into two planes. When you’re doing this type of work they are not always able to see the objects. It’s like when you play with Legos as a kid. The kids who play with Legos do well in here.”

Holtville senior Trevor Britt decided to take the class because he wants to go into civil engineering.

“With this class, it helps me get the CRI (career readiness indicator) in Autocad,” he said. “I think that will help me a lot with the math and other sides of the engineering programs.”

He echoes his instructor’s thoughts on challenges the class presents.

“Whenever it comes to trying to come up with something (a drawing) completely on my own, it’s challenging,” Britt said.

Wellander pointed out interest increased among parents when the school added pre-engineering to the title of the program.

“A lot of people do not realize that we offer this type of drafting program in the county,” he said. “We do not teach an engineering class. It is pre-engineering and covers mainly drafting and design which is taking ideas and putting those into drawing form.”

He said a pre-engineering student who recently graduated high school was hired by Steris.

“She was planning on going to college after high school and also wanted to get a job right out of high school,” he said. “She went to Steris and they offered to start her out at $12 an hour. She said she was certified in Autocad and they offered her $18 an hour. In three months, they bumped her up to $25 an hour. She continues to work at Steris when she is not in class. A lot of businesses recognize that certification.”