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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eyes on the skies: New course gives Shadle Park students a taste of aerospace manufacturing

In the aerospace class at Shadle Park High School, students Vincent Grant, 14, left, and Gabriel Logan, 15, work together to build balsa wood model of a Cessna 50 airplane as a way to learn how an aircraft is constructed. The aerospace program is offered only at Shadle. Students eventually learn to build aircraft parts with the possibility to land good-paying jobs in the industry. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
In the aerospace class at Shadle Park High School, students Vincent Grant, 14, left, and Gabriel Logan, 15, work together to build balsa wood model of a Cessna 50 airplane as a way to learn how an aircraft is constructed. The aerospace program is offered only at Shadle. Students eventually learn to build aircraft parts with the possibility to land good-paying jobs in the industry. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Dreams are taking flight at Shadle Park High School.

In Tony Anselmo’s aerospace technology class, the balsa wood planes are just the beginning – of a new academic challenge for some students and a well-paying job for others.

Elias Garcia is only a freshman but wants to work for Boeing one day and said that “aerospace always has been a passion.”

More students will share that passion after Spokane Public Schools’ board this summer formally adopted the Shadle Park pilot program as an approved curriculum.

The odds of landing a good job are even better, considering that Boeing has been supplying the curriculum for Anselmo’s class.

The Boeing Core Plus Program took flight at Shadle Park in 2014 to give students hands-on manufacturing experience. Anselmo already taught a manufacturing class, but the new program is specific to airplanes.

Students learn skills ranging from reading blueprints, technical vocabulary, basic structures and assembly.

The school year began with balsa-wood plane kits “that are tougher than they look” to put together, said freshman Emma Glanzer, who was assembling her plane alongside Garcia.

“Figuring out how they’ll fit together is the hard part,” Glanzer said.

“It’s just a fun, hands-on way for them at the beginning of the school year,” Anselmo said.

That was last week. Now the students are working with aluminum, learning to fit metal skins over airplane parts. Then comes the fun stuff: riveting and drilling.

Hands-on education is part of Spokane Public Schools’ “T-2-4” philosophy, which aims to send all students into a trade, community college or four-year school.

The technical piece is embodied in the NewTech facility located in northeast Spokane, but it’s branching out to schools like Shadle Park.

For seniors Jared Rosselet and Andrew Nitschman, the payoff could be around the corner. Both took Anselmo’s aerospace class last year. Now they’re working after school at Proto Technologies, which makes custom parts, models, patterns and molds.

Both split time between school and work, working toward their apprenticeships.

For Rosselet, the class at Shadle “helped teach us how to take proper measurements, which are crucial in aerospace.”

At Proto Technologies, he makes sure that parts are up to par.

Nitschman has been a shop geek since seventh grade.

“When I heard about the program, I had to sign up,” said Nitschman, who works in the machine shop at Proto Technologies.

Manufacturing jobs are on the rise in the Spokane area, said Doug Tweedy, a regional economist with the state of Washington.

They’re also becoming less labor-intensive.

“It used to be heavier work, like sawmills, but now we’re seeing more of a cleaner, high-tech environment,” Tweedy said.

That includes aerospace, which already has a niche in the Inland Northwest. Even better for new workers, Tweedy said that the average age for a manufacturing worker is high.

“We project that over 20 percent of manufacturing workers will retire in the next five years,” Tweedy said.

Back at Shadle, Anselmo hopes to add more classes and give progressive lessons. For now, all grades are housed in one aerospace class.

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