LACONIA — The Huot Regional Technical Education Center's open house which offered tours on Wednesday of its newly renovated automotive technology, building construction and pre-engineering/manufacturing programs proved an eye opener for many who took part.
''This is amazing. I wish they'd had stuff like this when I was in high school,'' said Karmen Gifford, executive director of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.
The center, on the LHS campus, serves some 430 students, 230 from Laconia and 200 from the five other area high schools, Belmont, Franklin, Gilford, Inter-Lakes and Winnisquam Regional.
Major changes have already been made as part of a $16.8-million project, which will include a 32,000-square-foot, $6.1-million addition which will house the Huot Center's restaurant and culinary arts program as well as health science, multi media and information technology classes.
Scott Davis, Huot Center director, said that many changes and upgrades have been made in the existing automotive technology area, which features five new state-of-the-art lifts and new diagnostic tools.
''It's the most popular program at the center,'' says Steve Snow, automotive technology teacher, who said that a tech team from the center placed third in state competition last year and that Huot Center students won over $5,000 in scholarships,
The pre-engineering program provides students with the ability to design products and actually create prototypes using a solid model 3-D printer as they are introduced to engineering concepts.
The manufacturing program has new lathes and CNC milling machines which are ''what they'll see in the real world,'' says Ken Martin, pre-engineering and manufacturing instructor.
Scott Compton, a junior at Laconia High School who is in his third year of the Huot Center program, says that he really likes the manufacturing program.
''I love working with my hands. It's so cool to be able to learn to use these machines and build useful products,'' says Compton, who already has a job waiting for him at New Hampshire Ball Bearings when he graduates from high school.
Matthew Towle, who heads up the building construction program, says that the addition of a new large entryway door has enabled the construction of larger projects, including a 41-foot long, 12 foot wide and 12 foot high houseboat which will be on Paugus Bay next summer.
''It was a huge project,'' says Towle, who says that one of his challenges is always working with a green, new construction crew every year.
Later this year the students will be working to build the concession stand and bathroom facilities at the Bank of New Hampshire Stadium which is being constructed behind the school as the new home field for Laconia High School athletic teams.
Scott Compton, a junior at Laconia High School, operates a computer-controlled milling machine in the manufacturing program area at the Huot Regional Technical Education Center as fellow student Garrett Guilmett, center, also a junior at Laconia High School, watches. (Roger Amsden/ for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Steve Snow, automotive technology teacher at the Huot Regional Technical Education Center, talks with members of the public who toured the center Wednesday to see renovations which have taken place as part of a $16.8 million school building and renovation program. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)