Thursday, 27 March 2014 13:57

$50,000 Grant Provides Major Boost to Waubonsee Community College Auto Body Repair Program in Illinois

Andy McDonald, assistant professor for the Waubonsee Community College Auto Body Repair program in Sugar Grove, IL, described a tradition of excellence to the Kane County Chronicle.

McDonald talked about strong finishes at state and national competitions, and said high-caliber students find work soon after school. Since 2008, Waubonsee students have earned four first-place awards, seven second-place awards, and two third-place awards in state SkillsUSA competitions. Several students have advanced to the National SkillsUSA completion in Kansas City, MO, earning second-, fourth-, and eight-place awards.

A lot of that was accomplished with older training technology, but now the school has been endowed with a $50,000 Ultimate Collision Education Makeover grant from the Collision Repair Education Foundation.

Waubonsee was among four schools nationally to receive the award in 2013.

As a result, the school will add a new paint room, a new paint booth, and a new frame rack, which was donated by Spanesi Body Shop Technology of Naperville, IL.

A North Aurora-based Sherwin Williams store will donate paint for the interior of the program’s building.

The equipment is worth tens of thousands of dollars, and McDonald said it will provide a boost, allowing students to work with state-of-the-art machinery that they would encounter when they are employed. “It’s more real-world,” McDonald said.

For instance, with the older technology, there were 1980s-style spray booths, and paint might have to dry overnight. But with newer technology, McDonald said, cars can be “baked” for 30 minutes. He said it also helps mistakes get corrected more quickly.

He said the old equipment wasn’t bad, but “it was just old equipment. Now, it’s going to be better.”

Sue Murray, the assistant vice president of career and technical education at Waubonsee Community College, said it was the second year the school had applied for the grant. She said it’s an opportunity to put a wish list together. She said I-CAR seeks the donations.

She said the donations will improve an already-successful and popular program. She said having such a program is a positive for Waubonsee.

“It is always full,” she said, adding that there are few such programs in the state. She said because such programs need equipment that can be pricey and require plenty of space, “schools don’t go into it lightly.”

At Waubonsee, she said, it’s a big help to have a program experience such accolades.

“It has a very good reputation,” she said.

Darrel DeGreves, the store manager at Sherwin Williams in North Aurora, said his store’s donations will be between 20 and 40 gallons of “Moonlight White” paint for the interior of the building.

“It’s really needed,” he said. “The building was originally a horse barn, and they’ve converted it into an auto center.” He said he is happy to help. He said he is familiar with the program and is impressed by those who are in it. “The kids are good kids,” he said.

Waubonsee’s auto body repair program is approved by the Illinois Community College Board and certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). It is taught in accordance with National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) standards and follows I-CAR guidelines.

Waubonsee’s auto body repair program gives students real hands-on experience making both structural and non-structural repairs on a variety of vehicles.  Students develop skills in the areas of frame repair and straightening, sheet metal repair, welding, plastic component repair, refinishing, and both solvent-based and waterborne painting.  Students repair an average of 78 cars each year. The auto body repair program is headquartered in the Auto Body Building, an 18,000 square foot facility on the south side of Waubonsee’s Sugar Grove Campus. This facility houses three spray booths, two prep stations, a modern classroom, and a computer lab.

Waubonsee’s facilities and program are compliant with the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and have been certified so by the Illinois Environment Protection Agency (EPA).  Students earn personal EPA certification which is a requirement for those working in the field. Students have trained on a mechanical frame measurement system and two computerized systems.  Other equipment includes three frame machines, a state-of-the-art waterborne paint system, and six resistance and MIG welders.