Seventh-grader Emma Anderson, of Manson, carefully squeezed the grip on an automotive paint sprayer. She tried to apply the paint smoothly, consistently and at the proper distance, while not wasting too much outside the lines of the oddly shaped metal piece – a tall order, even for college students.
It could have been an expensive practice session, if it were real. Anderson was using the paint simulator at Iowa Central Community College as part of the annual Diva Tech camp week.
“This is how we train the freshmen,” said instructor Doug Zuspann.
The simulator has a large screen that shows the simulated paint going on. It has an indicator to show when the student is holding the sprayer at the right distance, and can show where paint was applied too thin or thick. And all without using up very expensive automotive paint.
“This probably saves us $5,000 a year,” Zuspann said.
Down the hall, students were designing metal name plates which would the be cut from sheet metal by a plasma cutter.
Elsewhere, girls built coat hangers in the carpentry department.
About 21 high school girls and 59 from middle school were at the college Wednesday to learn about science, technology and industrial jobs, said Industrial Tech Associate Phyllis Minnihan.
The program ran Monday through Wednesday for high-schoolers, and will be Wednesday through Friday for middle schoolers. Now in its eighth year, Diva Tech helps acquaint young women with fields they might not consider, Minnihan said.
“That’s why camp got started,” she said. “To expose them to non-traditional career fields. Employers like to hire females. And these are well-paying, good careers.”
Minnihan and Liberal Arts Associate Jenny Shivers run Diva Tech camps, and both see the need for more women in science and industry.
“Almost all of my classes have at least one female,” Minnihan said. “Even in science fields, women are a minority.”
And there’s a huge demand for these sort of workers.
“In the automotive tech field, we had 17 jobs within an hour drive of Fort Dodge we couldn’t fill,” she said. “This area is a great hotspot, with CJ Bio America and Cargill.”
Many of the students had never done any work like this before. Daisha McDonald had her first chance to use a staple gun as she built her coat rack.
“I’ve painted, but I haven’t done any woodworking,” said McDonald, a fourth-grader from Fort Dodge. “It’s fun.”
Ami Martinez, an eighth-grader at Clarion-Goldfield, said she’d been to the camp last year. She found woodworking practical.
“Last year we made a cabinet, and that was fun,” she said. “It can help me in my room. I have a messy room.”
Bethany Granger, a sixth-grader from Fort Dodge, also liked it.
“I wanted something to do this summer,” she said, “and to show my grandpa that I can do the same things he can.”
The students also learned about electrical systems, computer networking, engineering and culinary tech during the week.