It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a hybrid.

Toyota STEM 55.JPGToyota presents latest hybrid technology to BVT students

“There’s a scratch right there,” said junior Auto Collision Repair and Refinishing student Ben Gardner of Upton as he inspected the sleek, charcoal grey Toyota Prius hybrid parked in the middle of the shop. “I could fix that easily if they’d let me.”

The “they” he was referring to was not his shop instructors, but rather the group of Toyota executives scattered throughout the shop. The group from Toyota’s Boston Regional Office brought the car to Valley Tech to show students examples of the newest hybrid technology.

“The youth and hybrid technology are our future. We want to educate and inform people about hybrid technology through students, while also growing the next generation of auto industry workers,” said Justin Pyles, a Field Technical Specialist at Toyota.

The group from Toyota came to Valley Tech as a part of the Global STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program the school has been involved in since 2014. The group gave an interactive presentation to students discussing the way technology has changed since the first Toyota hybrid was introduced in 1997.

The Prius parked in the Auto Collision shop boasted 29 internal computers that are in charge of everything from door locks to air bag controls. The battery that allows the car to run on electric power instead of gasoline, increases miles per gallon, and lowers emissions is located in the safest place possible for the driver and passengers. It is hidden directly behind the back row seats and is visible if you remove a flap in the trunk.

The placement of the battery, as well as the wiring that connects the battery in the back to the engine in the front, is done for maximum safety of the driver and passengers. The wiring runs through the middle of the car under the floor panels so that any impact to the sides, front, or back of the car won’t dangerously dislodge it. The battery in the back of the car is centered as well for the same reason.

During the presentation, Pyles spoke about the myriad of things Toyota has done to create a safe hybrid car. Through graphics, videos, and stories he told the students about the different technology in the car, how it has changed, and tips for students who will be facing the herculean task of understanding it in order to repair it.

The students circled the car after the presentation to get a look at the brand new technology and ask the Toyota executives different questions about the way the car worked. The students were particular interested in getting their hands on some of the tools and models set up on tables within the shop.

“It was a great opportunity to have the Toyota people here because in the field the technology is constantly changing. It’s a privilege to learn the technology from the industry professionals themselves,” said Gardner.

The students’ knowledge of the technology present in the car will make it easier and safer for them to make the proper adjustments when repairing collision damage.

“It’s important to know where the computers are in the door panel for the windows so when you have to remove it you know how to do it both safely and without damaging the technology in the car,” Pyles said during his presentation.

The students each got the opportunity to ask and answer questions during the presentation, and they walked away with a greater understanding of hybrid technology and their options for after graduation.

Toyota offers a program called Toyota T-Ten for students upon graduation from high school. The program is aligned with community colleges throughout the country. In its partnership with MassBay Community College, students are given hands-on experience in automotive technology and repair. Once they complete the program, they are placed within Toyota’s brands as certified automotive technicians.

The students at Blackstone Valley Tech are already thinking of their futures and will have an advantage in a program like Toyota T-Ten because of their vocational training and participation in Global STEM programs.

“Blackstone Valley Tech is the first vocational school in the country to invest in global STEM technology,” said Larisa Schelkin, CEO of Global STEM Education Center, Inc.

The investment in Global STEM technology is certainly paying off as BVT students are given access to industry leaders in their field.

Below: Toyota Field Technical Specialist Justin Pyles explains the technical components of hybrid technology to Junior Auto Collision and Repair students Ben Gardner of Upton and Steven Lane of Sutton during a STEM presentation at Blackstone Valley Tech.


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