WHITTIER – About 125 area seventh-graders will assemble car engines, build radios, launch rockets, learn First Aid and explore computer coding through the popular Minecraft game from July 18 to 22 during Rio Hondo College’s annual CTE Academy.

The program, offered for six years, allows students from four area school districts to explore science and technology career fields under the supervision of a cadre of Rio Hondo College instructors and students in Rio Hondo College’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program’s Teacher Education Access & Career Highway.

“Our CTE Academy exposes students to an exciting array of career fields with a host of hands-on activities that bring to life academic instruction in science and math,” Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss said. “We also get a chance to show these students the power of higher education.”

The academy, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, focuses on three career sectors: Energy and utilities, information technology and transportation. Within those sectors, students explore automotive technology, radio construction and transmission, solid-fuel rockets, structural design, health science and coding by creating “mods” in Minecraft.

Each day includes new hands-on activities as student teams pursue projects. For example, in the solid-fuel rocket project, students must apply trigonometry and algebra to complete their rockets. In the small-engine project, students break down and assemble a car engine. Along the way, they learn electrical theory, calculations and application.

The academy culminates on Friday, July 22, when the students present their projects and launch their rockets. Friday’s curriculum includes a tour of the Rio Hondo campus and a college student panel.

Students hail from 10 middle schools: Little Lake School District’s Lakeside and Lake Center middle schools; Mountain View School District’s Madrid, Monte Vista and Kranz middle schools; Valle Lindo School District’s Dean L. Shively Middle School; El Rancho Unified School District’s Rivera and North Park middle schools and the STEAM academy; and Bassett Unified School District’s Torch Middle School.

The program has grown considerably since its first year, when 30 students were welcomed to Rio Hondo College’s campus. This is the second year the program has offered a course in First Aid and CPR and the first year for structural design.

The academy is primarily funded by grants received by Rio Hondo College for career technical education and teacher training as well as the College’s general fund. Participating school districts fund student lunches.

“We are excited to be able to once again provide this free program for the students in our community,” Board of Trustees President Mary Ann Pacheco said. “It’s an opportunity many of our local families would be unable to afford on their own, but it can make all the difference in inspiring a child to pursue one of these high-demand career fields.