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1A-Duncantech3-43-x-fullDUNCAN - Most people, asked to close their eyes and picture a typical classroom, wouldn't draw an image like William Leyrer's busy, hands-on work space at the Red River Technology Center in Duncan.

Rows of rockets and remote-controlled planes, some shoebox-size but many quite large and all built right here, line walls bearing images of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. The Starship Enterprise boldly flies over long work tables behind which snake scores of cables and cords connecting laptop computers, student-built radios, other electronics and associated hardware, tools and diagnostic equipment.

Not typical.

But that's what makes Leyrer's classroom, and the electronics program at the Duncan tech center, so right for students these days and so what Oklahoma and the nation are looking for as they try to prepare young people for careers in a future that will be largely defined by knowledge in science, technology, engineering and math.

Leyrer, himself a graduate of Red River's electronics technology program in 1986, started teaching at the Duncan center seven years ago after career stops at Halliburton, the Aviation Career Campus at Metro Technology Centers in Oklahoma City and at Lockheed Martin. The program, he said, has opened doors for graduates at local companies like Hydra Rig and Cameron Measurement Systems. But Leyrer and others are particularly excited about a partnership established a couple of years ago between Red River and Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Tulsa, which has already led some students from the Duncan campus to good-paying jobs in the aviation industry. It's the only such partnership Spartan has with a career tech.

Whereas in the past a majority of electronics program grads likely would have gone on to work in the local oil and gas industry, most these days plan to finish requirements in Duncan to earn diplomas in electronics technology before moving on to Spartan, Leyrer said. In Tulsa, they can apply what they achieved in Duncan toward more advanced degrees in avionics awarded by Spartan. Red River electronics technology graduates receive, free of charge, 28 credit hours toward their training, upon acceptance.

Students who start in Duncan when they're juniors in high school can finish training at Red River in two years. Adults who take all-day training in the electronics program can finish in a year. If they then go on to Spartan, Leyrer said, they might typically complete their associate degree in aviation electronics technology in Tulsa in 11 months or less.

Some of Leyrer's former students, including his son, Dex, have gone on to jobs in places like California and Washington State, drawing salaries that put them well into the upper middle class.

Students don't have to be math whizzes or science geeks to succeed. Leyrer said he starts classes off with "a ground zero approach" beginning with safety and continuing on into areas such as AC and DC circuitry, solid-state circuitry and devices, digital circuitry and devices and microprocessor technologies. Any student who is motivated can do well, Leyrer said. He said one of his biggest hurdles, in fact, as a teacher is opening students' eyes to their own limitless possibilities, "convincing them they can do anything they want. They just have to want to go get it."

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