About 90 students participated in sessions on teamwork, leadership styles, communication, problem-solving and goal-setting and performed volunteer service during the Southwest Iowa Academy for the Development of Student Potential this week at Iowa School for the Deaf.

The four-day event ran from Tuesday through Friday, with evening activities on the first and last days.

The privately-funded academy is open to students entering eighth grade from Council Bluffs and a few surrounding communities.

On Thursday, students tackled science, technology, engineering and math-related activities in the morning and completed service projects in the afternoon.

“We try to do a lot of hands-on activities where kids are up and running and working together,” said Debora Masker, director of the academy. “If they can be a part of it, they’re going to learn more.”

Midwest Aeronautics gave students a chance to try operating drones, MidAmerican Energy Co. talked about wind turbines, Agape Red led an activity on developing software, TS Bank led a session on financial literacy and HGM talked about building bridges, Masker said. Students built straw bridges during the HGM activity.

In a class sponsored by Freightliner Truck Center, students learned about becoming a Freightliner technician. The goal of the session was for students to learn something, apply their knowledge and set the stage for the future, said Jim Walsh, recruiting director for the truck center.

“Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example,” he said. “It’s never about the role, always about the goal. When you get results, people are going to follow you.”

Becoming a leader starts with being a good worker, Walsh said.

“When you do well, people want to give you more responsibility,” he said.

How you lead — your leadership style — depends on your personality, Walsh said.

“There’s no one way to be a leader,” he said. “The goal of a real leader is to create more leaders.”

Freightliner pays new technicians to complete its training course, Walsh said, adding that they are expected to attend faithfully, arrive on time and stay awake during class.

Trainer Keith Lund gave students instructions for setting up a basic electrical circuit on a wooden circuit board with metal contacts, a power source, a switch and a metal strip.

“We build basic circuits on these boards, and I make my technicians test them,” he said.

The youth, in groups of two or three students, connected wires to the metal contacts with alligator clips and incorporated a circuit breaker and a small socket with a light bulb into the loop. Then Lund gave each group a voltmeter and had them measure the voltage at different points in the circuit.

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He had the students experiment by disconnecting a wire and measuring the voltage on both sides of the break in the circuit. Students found that voltage was high on one side of the break and zero on the other side. He explained that electricity “pools” when there is a break or “dam” that it cannot cross.

Finally, Lund had the students leave the classroom while he introduced problems into their circuits. Then he had them return and use the voltmeters to figure out what the problems were.

Drew Wilson of Kirn Middle School, Dylan Barry of Lewis Central Middle School and Grant Springman of St. Albert Junior High enjoyed the exercise, they said. Grant said he thought it was “very interesting.”

Jennifer Rangel Mendoza of Kirn and Samantha Horvath of St. Albert also thought it was fun. Doing a hands-on activity was much better than just seeing the information, Samantha said. Jennifer said the circuit was more interesting than a simpler one she had worked on previously.

Thursday afternoon, different groups of students worked in the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, assembled patient information kits at the Family Resource Center at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital, moved mulch in the 100 block of West Broadway for Council Bluffs Parks and Recreation, made Father’s Day crafts at Bethany Lutheran Home and cleaned out kennels at Midlands Humane Society.

Masker said she was pleased with the way this year’s academy had gone.

“It’s always a very heartwarming experience, and it’s fun for kids to interact with kids from other schools,” she said. “A lot of these kids walk out with lifelong connections, lifelong friends.”

Masker said the academy’s board of directors has set a Sept. 1 deadline for recruiting sponsors for next year’s session.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have support from TS Bank all of these years,” she said.

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