Parade float provides hands on learning experience

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Randolph-Henry High School Students attending the Career Tech Academy (CTA) utilized the South Boston Christmas parade as an opportunity to apply what they’ve been learning in their mechatronics and information technology (IT) classes.

Downtown South Boston’s Christmas parade is a highlight of the holiday season, offering a fun evening for the whole family. For Randolph-Henry High School students attending the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s (SVHEC) Career Tech Academy, the parade was also an opportunity to apply the concepts they’ve been learning in their mechatronics and IT classes.

CTA students studying IT worked side by side with their peers in Mechatronics to conceptualize and produce a float for the 2018 Christmas Parade. Using the parade’s theme, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” students designed Charlie Brown character cut-outs using Siemens NX Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, and then machined the parts using the SVHEC’s 3-axis router. Mechatronics students applied mechanical and electrical concepts they’d learned in class to solve several design challenges including finding a way to make Charlie Brown’s arms wave, and how to integrate a solar-charged battery to power the float lights.

Because the CTA brings together students from three different high schools, including Randolph-Henry High School, Halifax County High School and Bluestone High School, several students met for the first time while working on the float. They had to quickly come together as a team and start the building process.

“Partnership and teamwork with this task has been instrumental,” said CTA Administrator Stephanie Robinson. “Presenting occasions for the CTA students to apply their skills, we feel as a program, will only better prepare them for the workforce. This activity has provided the opportunity for students to enhance their soft-skills focusing on both verbal and nonverbal communication, listening, planning, and time management,” Robinson stated.

“The parade was a great opportunity for the CTA students to show the community the skills and knowledge they’re gaining from instructors Scottie Clowdis and Brad Overby. The students worked diligently with planning and designing the layout of the float, and I couldn’t be more proud of each of them,” Robinson said.

For more information about the SVHEC’s Career Tech Academy, visit or call (434) 572-5492.