De Soto DeSoto Sigh School students are reaping the benefits of the only bond issue passed in Kansas exclusively for technology.
When high school teacher Craig Smith leaves the classroom, he doesn't have to worry about his students throwing spitballs or switching seats.
They're too busy testing flight simulators, building carbon dioxide-powered cars and writing computer programs.
"They're learning and they don't even know it," said Smith, teacher of the "Investigations in Technology" class at DeSoto High School.
The class is comprised of a lab with several "modules," each containing special equipment where students learn about lasers, computers, audio-video, robotics, weather and other fields of science and technology.
"It's a lot better than other classes," said Rob Hunter, a 16-year-old sophomore. "It's hands-on, and you don't have to sit around and hear a teacher talk."
Equipment for the class was purchased following voter approval of a $4 million bond issue in 1994. The bond issue is the only such measure in the state approved specifically for school technology.
"When the kids are done with this class, they know almost as much as I did when I came out of college," said Smith, who graduated from Pittsburg State University in 1995. "It's important because they need to use these skills later on."
The technology center includes hands-on equipment for electronics, robotics, computer programming, a flight simulator, computer animation, video editing, graphic design, pneumatics, lasers and holography.
Students pick partners and work in teams, spending eight days at each station.
They are expected to keep a journal, where they write what they have learned each day. They also are graded on worksheets containing multiple choice questions about each project.
Freshman Ryan Rogers, 14, said the class was popular with students.
"You get to choose your partner and you get to work out stuff with 'em," he said.
Another freshman, Mandy Sterling, 15, said she has a friend who attends another school with little such learning technology.
"She has to read everything and we get to experience this stuff," she said.
Smith, who describes the class as a combination of physics, shop, engineering and computer science, said it also is a model for other school districts.
"I have principals from other districts coming in all the time," he said. "They see this and they use it as a model for something they want to do."
Smith teaches five classes of about 25 students each.
"We never have any problem with filling up," he said.