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Rising to the Challenge: Elevator Mechanic Challenges Students

For the past six years, Paul Miller, Elevator Mechanic Supervisor, has called on his experience with elevators at the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) to create an elevator training program for freshmen at the Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School (Phelps). It's one way Miller gives back and shares his knowledge with students, not just about elevators, but about broader career opportunities.

The AOC's first venture with Phelps was in 2009, when employees created and taught an architecture class to first-year students. The AOC's involvement has increased over time, with various tradeselevators, welding, carpentry, painting, plastering, sheet metal, elevators, insulation, plumbing, heavy equipment, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration, electronics and electrical work.

Throughout the training, Miller gets to see a group of students transforming into engaged learners and displaying their problem solving skills to the business of elevators. By the end of the program, the students are capable of fixing a trapped elevator. Confident in their skills, Miller brings the students to the House Office Buildings to challenge them with a hands-on activity. They get the chance to examine and repair an elevator, using diagnostic tools, newly-aquired knowledge and critical thinking.

In addition to sharing his technical expertise and breaking down the trade for the students, Miller encourages them to think more broadly about their careers. He suggests that not only could students consider a career installing and maintaining elevators, but they could also own their own company or design or engineer new elevator systems. He even gives them an idea to pique their entrepreneurial spirit: designing an elevator system that can endure the elements.

Miller interacts with students as they enter the ninth grade, and has enjoyed seeing them again at graduation when they recall what he taught themnot just the technical skills, but information he shared about working in the real world. He says, "These are bright young men and women. If they stay focused, they have unlimited growth potential."

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