Diving into Teaching Autonomous Vehicle Technology

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Feb. 12, 2020—Mark Childers has been in education for 23 years and he says he doesn't want to be stuck left in the past.

Childers, ASE master technician and auto shop instructor for Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, Calif., has been teaching at Pittsburg for two years and he realized the the automotive industry is heading in a new direction – one with advanced vehicle technology.

"I feel like that pretty much every auto shop program I've ever taught is in a time warp of 1994," Childers says.

Childers feels not every school has moved into teaching advanced repairs because of two obstacles. One is that teaching new techniques costs a lot of money and the second is that teachers tend to teach the way they're taught. He says that, when teachers keep teaching the way they're taught, they get to know the "old" topics really well but never learn the new ideas and topics.

Childers brought his idea to his administration and it was receptive. Contra Costa Transportation Authority and Local Motors partnered with Pittsburg High School so the school could roll out a new advanced auto program next school year. 

Local Motors—the creator of the world's first 3-D-printed car and the maker behind Olli, a low-speed, electric, autonomous vehicle —announced it will donate one of its Olli shuttles to Pittsburg High School's new advanced auto shop program. In addition to the vehicle, Local Motors will make the technical experts on its engineering team available to periodically mentor Pittsburg High School auto shop instructors and students.  

Currently, the auto shop program is a two-year program and is open to all grades, Childers says. The plan is to open the auto program up to science and engineering students so they'd have two years of experience in each field. 

Childers plans to teach repairs on electric vehicles, as well. He's in the process of gathering OE information on repair procedures, and reaching out to the manufacturers. He says that the OEs are "kind of apprehensive" on releasing all the information. 

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