Manufactured lessons

Woodland Regional High School senior Drew Korzon works on wiring an electric car April 7 during the manufacturing class at the school in Beacon Falls. The manufacturing class is building the car for the Connecticut Electrathon, a race that is May 6 at Lime Rock Park. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Woodland Regional High School senior Drew Korzon works on wiring an electric car April 7 during the manufacturing class at the school in Beacon Falls. The manufacturing class is building the car for the Connecticut Electrathon, a race that is May 6 at Lime Rock Park. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — Faculty members at Woodland Regional High School who may be in need of a new garbage bin or cornhole set need to look no further than room 218.

That is where Bill Carangelo’s manufacturing class has set up shop.

The manufacturing class, a full-year elective for upperclassmen, is run more like a company than a high school course. The company even has a name, Hawk Fabrication and Design.

Students take product orders and have the full capability in the class, from computer-aided design to metal and wood working, to design and build what the orders call for from scratch.

“People don’t really know what goes on in here,” said Carangelo, a business and technology education teacher, as the “company” was hard at work last Thursday morning.

When working on an order, students keep track of all the man hours, cost of materials — materials are paid for by those who place an order — and labor costs to determine how much a product cost and the profit margin.

“It gives them a feel for how much it costs to manufacture a product by hand,” Carangelo said.

The sounds of saws cutting metal and hammers banging in nails filled room 218 last week as some students worked on that garbage bin, another student was focused on building birdhouses and a handful of other students worked on a gas-powered go-cart. At any given time, students could be working on three or four projects — none bigger than the electric vehicle the class is building for the Connecticut Electrathon.

Connecticut Electrathon is an annual electric car race where teams of students build three-wheeled vehicles that are powered solely by batteries and fit one driver. The point of the race is not to cross the finish line first, but to travel the farthest distance in an hour. This year’s Connecticut Electrathon is May 6 at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, and Hawk Fabrication and Design will be there.

“It’s a good learning experience for the kids in this class, some more technically involved than others. It’s just an interesting project, and it’s just a great feeling of accomplishment come race day when we’re done and it’s ready to go,” said Woodland senior Drew Korzon, one of two drivers of the vehicle, as he worked on wiring the car last week.

Korzon, who is familiar with electrical wiring, described the process of wiring the vehicle as simple and complex at the same time. If one connection is wrong, he said, the vehicle’s computer can blow.

“It’s different than wiring the audio system in my car,” he said.

This is the second year Woodland students will be competing in the Connecticut Electrathon, but the first year they are building the car completely from scratch. The class is learning from last year’s struggles.

Last year, the vehicle’s frame was steel, which proved to be too heavy and caused the rear tire to blow out at least two times, Korzon said. This year, the class switched to aluminum for the frame.

“We’re trying to switch it up, learn from our mistakes from last year,” Korzon said.

The chance to work with aluminum is a new learning experience for Woodland junior Tom Lawlor, the second driver for the car.

“This is something new and I picked up on it pretty quick,” Lawlor said.

Lawlor, who has some experience in working with cars, is used to dealing with steel. The project has taught him how to weld aluminum and bend pipe, among a host of other lessons.

“If you’re hands on you learn a lot; all the different systems in the vehicle,” he said.

For Carangelo, building the Electrathon car encompasses nearly every aspect of what students learn throughout the school day, from math and accounting to marketing — the students try to get a sponsor for the car — to data collection and analysis.

“This ties together almost everything they’re doing in school,” Carangelo said. “To me this is the ultimate manufacturing product right here.”