Waukesha South High
School Engineering Preparatory Academy senior Claire
Lewis examines a piece of equipment on Metal Era’s shop
floor Thursday morning.
Ashley Haynes/Freeman Staff
WAUKESHA — While most students were just finishing up
with their first class of the day Thursday morning, a
trio of Waukesha South High School Engineering
Preparatory Academy students was at Metal Era, a local
manufacturer that specializes in roof solutions. As part
of the Waukesha School District’s “Manufacturing,
Automotive, Design, Engineering” program, the group will
be working in partnership with Metal Era to create their
own version of an airflow miter. This includes making a
jig, a counterbalance system and gantry.
Thursday morning marked the first time the project was
unveiled to them and they got to take a tour of the shop
floor, see how real manufacturing tools work and get a
look at an already completed part.
“We have a skills gap here, and how do you fix that? You
get into the high schools and get them excited about
manufacturing. There’s still a stigma about this,” said
Metal Era CEO/President Tony Mallinger.
The part the students will have to create allows air to
come in and out of a roof.
It helps prevent ice damming, or ice build-up on the
eaves of sloped roofs, and shingle degradation. While
students can conceptualize how to build an airflow miter
in the classroom, actually being on the shop floor
provides an invaluable opportunity.
“They’re getting an experience that they can’t get in
school. This is the real thing,” said South Engineering
Preparatory tech ed teacher Andy Weber. He says having
such a clean, well-lit working environment is helping to
make trade careers more welcoming to future workers,
including young women. At Metal Era, the number of women
went from zero to three in the last year and South
student Claire Lewis shows that there is interest among
From left: Nolan
Karklus, Claire Lewis and Ben Premeau, seniors at South
High School’s Engineering Preparatory Academy, take a
look at the project they’ll have to recreate in
partnership with local manufacturer Metal Era. Through
the school district’s MADE program, local businesses
expose students to trade careers.
Ashley Haynes/Freeman Staff
interest early on
For Lewis, her interest in building things started in
eighth grade at Les Paul Middle School. She says her
teacher helped her realize her natural talent for
putting things together during a class project that
involved students building a model airplane.
“When I found out there was an engineering academy that
same year, I decided ‘why not?’ It’s been really fun,”
Senior Ben Premeau says his natural strengths in math
and science made a good match for a career in a more
“I was interested in engineering because it enables
skyscrapers and all sorts of crazy stuff that couldn’t
normally be done,” said Premeau.
After seeing the airflow miter in person, he sketched
out a concept for how he could recreate it — a difficult
task since he says ideas and reality don’t always mesh.
As for South student Nolan Karklus, technical careers
have been a part of his entire life. His father is a
maintenance mechanic and there are plenty of tools
around his home.
“My dad likes to fix his own stuff and I’ve always been
interested in that,” said Karklus.
Over the next couple of weeks, the three South students
will take charge when it comes to the project. They will
be working with Metal Era directly to decide when they’d
like to stop by to work on their airflow miter.
By the end of the semester, they’ll have their finished
product and gain a hands-on experience that the Waukesha
School District emphasizes.
“We want to provide as many academic and skill-based
opportunities as possible for our students,” said
Superintendent Todd Gray. “To that end, we work closely
with our industry partners in our Waukesha MADE
committee to identify the needs of our industries so we
can broaden and deepen our skills-based curriculum.”