Warren County Public Schools student Matthew Bourgoin says he expects the electricity course he's taking to help kick start a career in electrical engineering.

Bourgoin takes Electricity 2 taught by Darren McKinney at the Blue Ridge Technical Center, home for many of the division’s vocational courses.

“I want to be an electrical engineer and this is a great way to start it,” Bourgoin said in class on Friday. “If it wasn’t for this class, I wouldn’t find out what I wanted to do for college.”

Bourgoin said he would do trades work on the side while he attends college.

The courses also serve a practical purpose by giving him the skills to work on electrical systems in his own home and save money, Bourgoin said.

On Friday, students in McKinney’s class gathered around a child’s motorized vehicle that had stopped working. A mouse had chewed through some wires in the vehicle, and the students needed to troubleshoot the problem and figure out a solution. Students took the vehicle apart and used tools and their learned skills as they worked on the project.

As the students worked on the vehicle, McKinney occasionally stepped in to help.

Earlier, the students assembled a mockup of a power line using cable and sections of utility poles.

The first year of the course focuses on the basics of electricity, McKinney said. In the second year, students engage in more hands-on work, he said. Safety remains the top priority throughout the entire course, he said.

McKinney has students build their own transformer as one of the first lab projects.

Students soon will install a heating system in a greenhouse at Skyline High School, McKinney said. Students surveyed the building, calculated the needs for the job and determined how to build the project, McKinney explained. The class often requires students to use other skills, such as calculus.

“It’s amazing how much science and math goes into this (course),” McKinney said.

The classes can count toward a student’s vocational training required to achieve certification. If students don’t obtain enough hours at Blue Ridge Technical Center to achieve certification, they can complete their education at Lord Fairfax Community College or at other trade schools, McKinney said. In addition to coursework, a person must complete 8,000 hours of field experience in four years before he or she can take the tests necessary for certification as an electrician, McKinney said.

The learning doesn’t end with certification. Electricians and other tradesmen must take classes on a regular basis to maintain their licenses, McKinney said.

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com