Anytime more than 1,100 second-grade students gather, keeping their attention is going to be difficult. Add in the presence of a fire truck, an ambulance, a police cruiser, a trash truck, and a street sweeper and it’s nearly impossible.
But that was the task given to operators of each of those vehicles and others on Nov. 8 when the Abilene ISD, in cooperation with the City of Abilene and other community sponsors, hosted its third annual Careers on Wheels event in the parking lot at Shotwell Stadium.
Students from every elementary school made the trip to the stadium to learn about the inner workings of each of the vehicles that were parked in the west lot. The City of Abilene provided most of the vehicles, but also present were the Waggin’ Wheels Mobile Grooming van, and a Red Apple Realtors car that allowed the students to see and hear how vehicles help not only with day-to-day running of the city but with the Abilene economy.
“Careers on Wheels is a career exploration initiative that allows children a glimpse into various jobs that include the use of vehicles,” said Lucille Fullen, the AISD Director of Career and Technical Education. “It promotes student awareness in a variety of careers while linking the world of work to school. This hands-on event offers opportunities for students to explore, climb, and touch most vehicles while asking questions. Because presenters are interactive, it makes an impact on our second-grade students.”
The vehicles were arranged in an oval around the parking lot, and each group of students spent about five minutes at each stop where they were shown how the vehicle works, what makes it special, how it helps the community, and some of its unique features. Then the students are allowed to ask questions.
One of the vehicles that had students scratching their heads was a street sweeper, provided by the City of Abilene. Equipment operator Jason Jackson, who has been with the city for about 18 months after a career as a truck driver, was on hand to explain to the students what he did and how his vehicle worked.
That was a little bit of a different proposition because the street sweeper is a unique vehicle. First, it has large brooms on each side that rotate and pick up dirt and other items from the street, sucking them into a center sweep, onto a conveyor belt, and then into a large hopper that sits on the back of the vehicle. During the demonstration, the large hopper was hoisted in the air and tilted back to give the students a look at what the hopper looks like when it’s being emptied.
The thing every student group noticed first was that the steering wheel wasn’t in the normal spot. Instead of being on the left side of the vehicle, the steering wheel in a street sweeper is on the right side. That, Jackson said, took some getting used to when he first went to work for the city.
“One of the best questions of the day was asking if I actually drove the vehicle because the steering wheel wasn’t in the right place,” he said. “I told him I drive it very carefully. Then I was asked how I drive it with the brooms moving. I told them you have to drive it very slowly, watch what you’re doing, and very carefully pick up stuff that’s not supposed to be on the street. And that’s how we keep the streets clean. I’ve not had the opportunity to interact with kids like this since I started with the city, but this was a blast with these kids.”