TJC Hosting International Automotive Conference
By EMILY GUEVARA
Mir Alikhan couldn't speak more than a few moments without interruption. Someone called his cellphone needing money. A friend stopped to stay hello. A colleague asked about logistics.
As a key organizer for an international conference at Tyler Junior College this week, Alikhan was a man in demand on Monday. But he had no complaints.
"Everything's going really good," the TJC automotive technology instructor said, taking a break from his duties. "I mean seminars are going fine, no complaints yet. So, first day's usually the tough day."
Tyler Junior College is playing host to this year's North American Council of Automotive Teachers Conference, an event expected to have an estimated economic impact of $600,000 for the city.
The event brings together top trainers in automotive technology and high school and college-level instructors. More than 300 council members were registered to attend, with at least 75 instructors.
The majority of events are at the Skills Training Center on TJC's West Campus.
With about 120 different seminars to choose from during a four-day period, attendees can tailor the program to meet their professional development needs.
"This is basically the staff development for us, continuing education," said Alikhan, who is vice president for the conference and a council board member.
Seminar topics include hybrid and electric cars, auto electronics, suspension, technology use in the classroom and student engagement.
Apart from the seminars, the conference features a banquet, a trade show with 80 exhibitors expected, a valve cover race and more.
In one of the seminars, Craig Van Batenburg taught a class of automotive instructors about electricity through an analogy using Army men. He, along with his wife, Deb, own Automotive Career Development Center based out of Worcester, Mass., and train people worldwide in hybrid and electric car technology.
Van Batenburg said they love the North American Council of Automotive Teachers organization and have been presenting and exhibiting at the conferences for several years. He said these are people who are influencing young people in a positive way through technical education.
Vera Lewis-Jasper, Galveston College's dean for workforce and technical programs, attended the conference for the first time this year.
She said her college is starting an automotive technology program and she came to learn more for that program.
By mid-day Monday she already emailed her college and told them to stop work on a building they are prepping for the program. She realized they might need to add smaller lab rooms or classroom space in addition to the large spaces.
"Let's look at some mini labs," she said of her thoughts after seeing TJC's facility. "There may be just a brake lab or it may just be a something else lab. So this was probably invaluable."
Gerald Schex, sales director for Lucas-Nuelle, a company that manufactures training systems for technical and vocational education, was at his first council conference.
Schex said the company, with headquarters in Germany, is active in more than 100 countries around the world and is looking to expand its market in North America. The company has been active in the U.S. since 2004.
He said all of its automotive training systems are fine for marketing here in terms of hardware because "a BMW is a BMW in Germany or here in the states."
However, the curriculum must be adapted to meet the standards of the country in which it is being used.
So the company will adapt its curriculum to meet standards according to the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, which accredits U.S. automotive training programs.
Daniel Brown, Lucas-Nuelle's product manager for the North American market, planned to lead conference seminars about hybrid drives and e-mobility, Schex said. They also were going to exhibit at the trade show.
"Our main goal is of course to find a little market niche here beside the main strong competitors. ... And we are quite confident that we are able to find this niche especially in the range of e-mobility and hybrid drives," Schex said.