By Debbie Adams
Students and staff at the Burton Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT) hosted its annual Expo and open house on October 7.
Those who attended—mainly prospective students and their families—were able to learn about the various programs BCAT offers that they can apply for, for next year. The open house began at 5:30 p.m. and ran until 7:30, allowing guests to visit about eight different programs if they kept up the pace of the schedule.
The programs were located in the three separate buildings that make up the BCAT campus. Building A houses the Center for Visual Arts and Museum Studies, Cosmetology, Early Childhood Education and Teaching Internship, Game Design, and Introduction to Nursing Careers.
Programs in Auto Service Technology, the Center for Mass Communication, the Center for Performing Arts, Culinary Arts, Emergency Medical Technicians, and Welding and Motorsports are located in Building B.
Building Trades, the Center for Engineering (STEM), Computer Information and Technology and Networking Concepts, Criminal Justice, Masonry, and Mechatronics and Robotics (STEM) are housed in Building C.
According to Principal Christian Kish, “BCAT is considered a ‘specialty school’ and takes applications from students from all five Roanoke County high schools (base schools). The plan is to propel students into a successful career in their chosen field—having them ‘Opportunity Ready’ for a bright future. BCAT is a special place because the students choose to be here with us and because the students were chosen by us to be here.”
About 180 students from William Byrd High School are enrolled in programs at BCAT.
The first building at BCAT (then known as the Roanoke County Education Center) was constructed in 1962. There were only four programs at the time; only two—Cosmetology and Auto Mechanics—still remain on the list of offerings. To begin with, BCAT served roughly 300 students.
In 60 years, the campus has gradually added two more buildings and many more programs—in approximately 20 areas, and now counts over 800 students. The facilities have become somewhat antiquated and are the focus of a joint rebuilding effort (in a new location) by the county School Board and Board of Supervisors who want to create a state-of-the-art center.
Students at BCAT are instructed in “Super Blocks,” meaning their instructional time is greater than a regular block at the high school level. Students taking classes in the morning are at BCAT from 7:30 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. Students taking afternoon classes do so from 12:25 p.m. to 2:55 p.m.
Students take other required classes (such as math, English, science, social studies, and other electives) at their base high school. Transportation is not provided from the students’ home to BCAT. If they register for morning classes, the family has the responsibility of transporting them from home to their base school to catch a morning shuttle to BCAT—which is located in Salem. For afternoon classes, students are transported after lunch from their base school to BCAT.
Some students sign up for a one-year program; others stay all four years of their high school career.
Families who stopped by Automotive Technology program heard from instructor Steve Hoback about the program designed for students who want to enter the automotive field. Students receive theory and hands-on training in automotive repair to prepare for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification testing and gain valuable hands-on training using the latest automotive diagnostic and repair equipment.
The Building Trades Program taught by Tom Shelton “is a doorway into the high-paying careers found in the construction industries. Students have opportunities to develop their skills in the shop and off-site on jobs in the community, learning carpentry/cabinetry, electrical wiring, and plumbing.”
Burton’s Computer Information Technology program offers hands-on training and classroom lecture designed to help students pass the CompTIA A+ and Network + exams and attain their certifications. Students planning to attend college can acquire Dual Enrollment college credits. Students learn the components of a computer, followed by a focus on Operating Systems. An advanced class focuses on in-depth networking hardware, topologies, protocols, and troubleshooting.
Cosmetology, taught by Gwen Bower, is a three-year program which consists of hands-on experience in a salon atmosphere. Students learn about skin care, nail care, and hair care, as well as salon management. They perfect their skills by working on clients. They gain the experience needed to pass the Virginia Cosmetology State Board exam, allowing students to be licensed to work in a salon or spa.
Culinary Arts is a two-year hands-on class that teaches potential chefs how to prepare and present food, alongside experienced chef instructor Teresa Baxter. These classes are held in the original school kitchen at Burton.
Amanda Kinser leads both the Early Education program which allows students to intern at local schools one or two days a week and the Teaching Internship Program, in which students shadow a mentor/teacher. Both programs give students the opportunity to work with students in classroom settings.
The Emergency Medical Technician Program (EMT-B) is available with cooperation from Virginia Western Community College, Jefferson College, and the support of the Roanoke County Fire & Rescue Department. Students are trained to national standards as EMT-B’s with current American Heart Association CPR certification and perform ride-along assignments with Roanoke County Fire Rescue.
Game Design & Programming introduces students to the gaming industry as well as a foundation in Information Technology and Programing concepts, in preparation for careers as a Game Level Designer, Game Tester, or Entry Level Programmer. Students learn how to create and test their own games as well as research the gaming industry. Students take an industry certification test.
The Introduction to Nursing Careers program allows students to explore opportunities in the health care field. Supervised work-based learning in health care settings is managed by a board-certified RN. Students have the opportunity to earn the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) credential by the end of the school year. Year two students participate in hands-on clinical nursing experiences at a program partner location, performing the skills learned in the skills lab during year one, on actual patients. Qualified students will take the CNA exam at BCAT’s skills lab by the end of the 1st semester in year two.
In the Masonry program, students learn entry-level masonry skills such as laying brick and block from instructor David Baxter. They gain hands-on experience working with local contractors and industry professionals, and through a variety of community service projects. Masonry students have the option to participate in Skills USA and compete statewide in the trade, where Burton has a tradition of performing extremely well.
Instructor Shawn Burns, says the Mechatronics program is highly popular, with only 25 of 100 applicants accepted this year because you “get to make stuff. It’s a project-based class.” This is a two-year program that offers dual enrollment credit with Virginia Western Community College and many certifications.
Areas of study include Shop Math and Precision Measuring; blueprint reading and applying tolerances ; OSHA safety training; tooling and fixtures; use of saws, drill presses, lathes and mills; building and competing with Radio-Controlled Robots; introduction to 2D and 3D CAD systems; building mechanical drive systems and simulation; introduction to electronics, pneumatics, hydraulics and computer controllers, electronic circuits and schematics soldering lab; building and competing with autonomous robots; introduction to CAD/CAM and CNC machining processes; introduction to Automated Manufacturing Cell simulation; and 3D printing and CNC engraving.
In the Burton Motorsports program, taught by Chris Overfelt, students learn how to use the tools and machines needed to build a racecar from scratch. Students receive training in welding, fabricating, auto painting, and engine performance and build cars from the ground up. Students may attend field trips to racetracks and participate in Skills USA where BCAT has become nationally recognized and ranked. Students work on drag cars, Go-karts, Street rods, and Race car trailers. Overfelt is also the instructor for the welding program.
BCAT also offers specialty centers for Engineering, Mass Communications, Performing Arts (voice, acting, and dance), and Visual Arts and Museum Studies as part of the Roanoke County Governor’s STEM Academy.
The procedure to follow to apply for BCAT programs can be found by emailing email@example.com. Information is also available on the RCPS website at www.rcps.us/BCAT. Applications are now being accepted. The deadline is January 31, 2022.