David Bottomley comments on freshman Dan Webster’s work during a shop class at Southwestern High School. Bottomley will retire in June after 32 years at Southwestern. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
David Bottomley

comments on freshman Dan Webster’s work during a shop class at Southwestern High School. Bottomley will retire in June after 32 years at Southwestern. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
David Bottomley has taught the same class at Southwestern High School for 32 years, even though the class name - and technology - isn't the same as when he started.

Bottomley is retiring at the end of this year as the engineering and technology education teacher. He began teaching industrial arts when he was hired at Southwestern in 1981. That first class was craft oriented, giving students the chance to learn basic metal and woodworking skills. While he still teaches some of that, it has become a much smaller part of his job.

Not long after he was hired, industrial arts turned into industrial technology, which began to incorporate some newer technologies, like the compugraphic typesetter. That class was still "pre-personal computer," according to Bottomley.

Once that threshold was crossed and the school invested in a computer, his job started to change rapidly.

"I'd say it started, roughly, in 1985, and it hasn't stopped. It just exploded," Bottomley said.

Bottomley said the school got its first computer after an outside contractor announced it would no longer process grades for schools.

"We would provide them printed data and they would process it and give us report cards," Bottomley said. "(The principal) told us to research whether or not there was software available to do it on a PC."

There was.

"We had money to buy one computer, one big printer and the software so that we could calculate our grades," he said.

The school bought a Macintosh II from Apple. The computer came standard with up to four megabytes of RAM and an 80-megabyte hard drive. A new iPad, which is becoming a standard in many classrooms, comes with 16-gigabyte solid-state hard drive, which is equivalent to 16,384 megabytes.

After the first year with one computer, the school decided it needed three computers - one for secretaries in front to use for scheduling and two for the counselors, so both would have access to grades and records.

Bottomley learned to network the computers and set up a server in the school.

"It became more, more, more very quickly," he said.

The school expanded its network, and Bottomley's involvement grew.

"I got aboard on that very early. Then it just got to a point where they kept calling me out of class to keep the network running.

"I said 'I can't do this. I can't do both.' So they finally made the decision to hire a full-time (information technology) person. And of course everything kept exploding after the administrative side got computers."

When funding became available, Bottomley had computers put into his classroom. Soon after, the name of the class changed. This time from industrial technology to technology education.

That class started with a fleet of Macintosh classics, a computer equipped with a nine-inch black and white screen. It was also one of the first computers with a graphical user interface, which allowed users to interact with the computer through images, instead of just text.

"I had to teach some of my students how to use a mouse," Bottomley said with a smile.

From there, the school continued to upgrade and expand its computer network.

"It's funny. The area has evolved as well with the words that are used to describe it. At first it was 'industrial,' you know - industrial arts, and machine trades, and hands-on skills and crafts. Then things started to change a little bit and it became industrial technology. Then things rapidly started to change and it went to technology education. Then things really started to change. The personal computers became very powerful. The software became very advanced," Bottomley said.

With those changes to computing came another name change. Bottomley now teaches engineering and technology education. Soon after, the school began to incorporate Project Lead The Way classes into the curriculum. The hands-on, project-based program for high school and middle school students is meant to expose them to areas of study that they might not be used to in high school.

"At the time, a lot of PLTW teachers were tech ed teachers," Bottomley said. "I had to go to summer training to become certified in this first- year Project Lead The Way class."

He was certified to teach the PLTW class, Introduction to Engineering Design. With that class came a new computer lab that he set up with new software. Computer-aided design software, or CAD software, is professional level software used by engineers when designing a project.

"Drafting and design work used to all be done on drafting tables with drafting tools. At that time, they called it board work. You drew everything up by hand then. Of course, with the advent of PCs coming into schools, it didn't take long for companies to start writing CAD software," Bottomley said. "That was a tough one too, to go from manual drafting over to CAD. From working on a 17-inch by 22-inch piece of paper down to a nine inch screen. It was a little hard."

Now, computers sit on top of his old drafting boards.

Bottomley said the transitions were tough at first. Initially, his students didn't always take to them. That, for the most part, has passed.

"As the years went by those kids had more and more experience on personal computers here at school and eventually at home. It just became easier and easier. By the time I got them, they had five- or six-years experience at the elementary schools. Then I could spend more and more time getting into the details, not on how to use a mouse."

Those transitions never bothered Bottomley.

"I like the idea of change, you know? I like doing new things. That excites me, it doesn't turn me off. I'm not real sure where that came from, but I've had it since I was pretty young. I like learning new things, give them a try," Bottomley said.

"It's made my job more interesting. New technology has always required me to keep up, if I wanted to implement that technology, which I felt obligated to do as a tech teacher. How could I be a technology teacher and still use pencil and paper if there's three-dimensional CAD software to work on?" he said.

"If you're a photography teacher, what are you going to do? Are you going to stay in the film world?"