Three–and-a-half hours clicked by as 10th-grader Ethan Baldwin answered 15 questions on the Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate certification test.
SOLIDWORKS is design and engineering software and a key part of the one-year curriculum for the modeling and simulation program at the Advanced Technology Center (ATC). Students learn how to draw objects for shape, size, material and aerodynamics. These drawings can then be put into simulation software or 3D printers.
Certification is not a requirement to pass the class, but it helps for whatever the student plans after graduation, said Mack Stevens, modeling and simulation teacher at ATC. “The more certifications you have,” he explained, “the more lucrative your job will be.”
Charles Hurd, coordinator of engineering and technology education for Virginia Beach City Public Schools, said that the certification helps those who go to college. “By being SOLIDWORKS certified, they are already recognized by their professors as being leaders.” For graduates who decide to go right from high school into the work force, he added, “It’s a win-win situation. On top of the grade, on top of the diploma, industry credentials are paid for by the school division. That all allows students to be ahead of other new hires.” According to Hurd, a SOLIDWORKS certification is equivalent to three to five years of job experience.
Baldwin came to the ATC because of his interest in technology, although he really had not chosen a career path. “This course in particular I took on a whim, but I’m really enjoying it. Once I got into the class, I really started to enjoy SOLIDWORKS and making models. The best part is going through the process, finding what works and what doesn’t and adjusting until it’s perfect.”
When he completed the certification test and hit “Enter,” a congratulatory banner immediately appeared with a score of 240 points. A perfect score. It happens every once in a while at ATC, and there’s a plaque outside the classroom with names of those who have managed it. “The fact that high school students can achieve this level of performance is noteworthy,” Hurd said.
Baldwin was not alone. This year, 11th-grader William Koontz, an Engineering Technology II student at ATC, also achieved a perfect score on the SOLIDWORKS Associate certification test.
Both students pretty happy about his accomplishment, and he plans to go for the Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional certification in a few months, a goal that Stevens supports.
“To pass the professional test, you should have about 700 hours working in the industry, but we get ’em done in a year here,” he boasted. “I tell students, ‘This is an opportunity! You have opportunities here you don’t have at other schools.'”