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The Wheels on This Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round … Again

SkillsUSA Massachusetts students convert a decommissioned passenger bus into a welcome career-building resource for their local community.
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Photo courtesy of Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical School.

From Oct. 2021 to Jan. 2022, SkillsUSA students at Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical School (SRVTS) in South Easton, Mass., used their varied skills to deliver new life and purpose to a decommissioned passenger bus. In its younger days, the bus provided rides as part of the Brockton Area Transit Authority. Now it provides knowledge as a mobile learning lab for the MassHire Greater Brockton Workforce Board (MHGBWB), an organization that helps connect employers with job seekers while providing professional development and career-building services.

Transforming the bus took the combined skillsets of students from the electrical, automotive technology, carpentry and makerspace, precision machine engineering, and collision repair and restoration programs. Students demonstrated effective teamwork across various disciplines while diagnosing and solving automotive problems and devising creative solutions to what began as head-scratching problems.

Some of the work included installing a television, internet modem and whiteboard; inspecting and diagnosing a broken hydraulic lift for a wheelchair entrance; fortifying the vehicle’s scissor doors; diagnosing and repairing problems with the heat, air-conditioning and vehicle battery; installing a safety switch to ensure the power to internal devices goes off when the bus engine is shut off; and making cosmetic repairs such as painting and securing reflectors. The students also modified the interior of the bus to allow MHGBWB staff to secure equipment in place while the bus is on the move.

Once simply a “bus,” this resurrected “road warrior” is now a mobile classroom with Wi-Fi and power that seats 8-9 people at workstations.

“Real-world experience is crucial to our students’ vocational education,” says SRVTS superintendent Luis Lopes. “Not only did this project provide that, but it also allowed our students to contribute to something that will help people in their community.”

“The students learned to not only collaborate with other shops, but they also had to navigate real-world supply issues to keep this project on schedule,” says Joshua Gower, SRVTS automotive technology instructor. “I was most proud of their ability to diagnose and repair the lift to make sure the project was ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessible.”

“Southeastern focuses on involving students in projects that allow them to learn by providing agency and purpose,” says SRVTS Principal Leslie Weckesser. “Opportunities through community projects give students real-life problem-solving skills through community-betterment projects. I am extremely proud of our instructors and students for the work that went into the bus.”

“Knowing that we are helping our community as well as gaining valuable real-world work experience has been great,” says junior Connor Maduskuie.“I am most proud to know that this vehicle will be helping the public long after I graduate,” adds senior Stephen Bamford.

“A total of 85 hours went into the project cumulatively by the students,” says SkillsUSA advisor and vocational supervisor Robert Foley. “I’m very proud of their enthusiasm, focus and determination. Their work will live on for years to come.”

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