UCA’s Technology Program
Focuses on the Great Commission
"They’re building guitars!” a prospective student turned in astonishment to his parents while on a tour of Upper Columbia Academy’s woodworking class. But this student had an even bigger surprise around the corner. When they entered the auto shop, they came face to face with a Hummer that had once been a 1984 Subaru Outback. “How did you do that?” the family asked. “Piece by piece,” Chuck Paulson grinned.
Wide variety of class offerings
In addition to making guitars in woodworking class, technology teacher Chuck Paulson has had students make hope chests, coat racks, porch swings, picture frames, end tables, cabinets… One student even built a kayak. In welding technology class, he’s had students make utility trailers, steel coffee tables, engine hoists, engine stands, car ramps, firewood storage boxes, snowboard rails, weightlifting equipment and more. Other available classes include photography, fabrication technology (designing and building things out of steel), aviation ground school and computer-aided drafting (CAD).
State-of-the-art computer lab
Thanks to the continuing generosity of future-minded alumni and several private foundations, the school was able to develop a state-of-the-art technology lab, installing 11 specialized work stations with 16 new computers. Each station features at least one computer with a flat-screen monitor. Under the teacher’s supervision, the computers offer specialized learning modules, which take students through a somewhat self-paced tutorial program. With each topic taking approximately three weeks to complete, every student will be able to choose at least six areas to complete during a semester.
College credit available
Students are able to receive college credit (through Spokane Community College) for auto CAD, aviation, automotive, welding and fabrication technology.
“Whether or not these students end up majoring in a technology in college,” says Paulson, “this credit gives them a head start. They can use the credits as electives and they can use their skills to get good jobs to earn their way through college.”
Two current UCA students are already using their CAD skills for an area engineer and earning much more than minimum wage.
Philosophy makes the difference
Paulson has been heading up UCA’s technology department for 13 years and is proud of the variety of class offerings, the state-of-the-art technology and the opportunities his department is able to give for students to earn college credit. What really gets him excited, though, is talking about the department’s philosophy and mission.
“Far more important than the variety of classes we offer,” he says, “is our philosophy. The mission of this department is to show students that there is a place for them within the Great Commission. Those of us who are more ‘industrially gifted’ and want to pursue hands-on careers have been given the Great Commission as much as any other Christian, including preachers and teachers. I don’t want any student to leave this campus wondering if there is a place for them in the work of the church.”
Experiencing the mission
Paulson’s philosophy is dramatically illustrated by his personal mission work in the African country of Malawi where he is overseeing the building of a medical clinic along with a grade school, high school and, eventually, an orphanage. He and his wife, Loralee, were inspired to initiate this project while on a UCA mission trip to Malawi several years ago.
Next spring, UCA technology students go to help construct the clinic and the first school buildings.
Students have been successful
“Many kids do great with both academics and the hands-on classes,” observes Paulson. “But sometimes we have students who struggle academically, and it’s the hands-on technology classes that get them through. Sometimes we have a few who are full of mischief and these classes give them an outlet for their creativity. My real pay comes when I hear from those kids about what they’re doing with the education they received here.
“One of my former students is now running a farm. One provides very well for his family by working on cars. One runs a parts store. One has a floor tiling company. Another is a successful diesel mechanic and another is doing the maintenance at one of our schools. Several are now making good money and are helping me financially with the Malawi Mission Project—some want to go over and help me with the construction.”
But back to the “Hummer”
About two years ago, someone gave the technology department a 1984 Subaru Outback. They figured the students could tinker with the engine and practice changing the oil. Instead, Paulson had them take all the sheet metal off the car (door, sides, top…) and design replacements on the computer in the style of a Hummer. They imported those designs into a plasma cutter, cut out the pieces (from new metal), and put it together. It needs to have the fuel tank reinstalled and it still needs some body work, windows and paint, but the students are very proud of it. To see a video clip of UCA’s “Hummer,” visit www.ucaa.org, click on "About Us" and then on the video "Creative Academics."
“I had fun with my students when I taught in public school,” says Paulson. “But I couldn’t pray with them and I couldn’t have pictures around the shop of Christ as a carpenter and I couldn’t breathe a word about fulfilling the Gospel Commission. As long as I do have those freedoms here at UCA, I might as well use them to the fullest!”