About to toss that broken toaster? Digital Pathways class may be sending help your way

What did you do the last time your toaster broke? Or your smart phone?

If you said you threw it out, you aren't alone. So in an age when its more the habit to toss electronics than to fix them, why would you teach high school students how to put together a circuit board?

Well, not everything is digital. And some stuff can't be replaced.

So says Will Smith, Jr., instructor at the Houston County Career Academy in Warner Robins. In the Digital Pathways sequence, high school students learn how to repair electronics by soldering. Basically, that's using a hot rod to melt a little metal to glue together electronic components.

On a recent morning Smith’s students practiced by stringing resistors together into sculptures.

“Kind of like an art exhibit show to show creativity,” he said.

They planned later to build a flashing LED light from scratch. As Smith approvingly looked over their shoulders, the students connected piles of resistors into stars, boxes or even connected loops.

Smoke was rising past Justin Purvis’ nose as he worked. He said he gets a charge out of working on the things other people toss out.

Why do that when you can actually take it apart and see if you can actually fix it yourself?" he asked. “It's a major accomplishment when you do it yourself.”

Smith, the instructor, said that drive to keep old stuff running is worth a lot just down the road at Robins Air Force Base.

“There's a lot of aircraft there. Older aircraft,” he said.

There's little that's digital about those old aircraft and they have to keep flying. So where does soldering come in?

"Say I have an old part and I just want a technician to fix it," Smith said. “A technician would get a soldering iron, troubleshoot and fix the part.”

The workers who know how to do that now and keep older aircraft in the air are retiring.

“It's going to leave a big skills gap . . . ,” Smith said, adding that he hopes the students in his classes will end up at Robins Air Force Base to fix the things that need to be fixed.