On their way to visit the Chippewa Valley Technical College Manufacturing Education Center in Eau Claire on Manufacturing Day, students from River Falls and Ellsworth high school stopped for a couple of other tours.
“We were able to top at Schmitt Prototypes and Prototype Solutions in Menomonie on our way,” said Julie Winegar, tech ed teacher at Ellsworth High School. “It was great for them to see that manufacturing is not a dirty job and is pretty high tech. And at Prototype Solutions they work with Marvel Comics and make pieces of Iron Man suits for theme parks.”
“We stopped at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Menomonie on our way over,” said River Falls tech ed teacher Paul Haugland. “They saw a lot of automation — sorting automation and bar coding. They have things that can’t be shut down at all; they have to keep them running.”
Exposing high school students to such technology and how it is used in industry today was one of the primary purposes of CVTC’s observance of Manufacturing Day Friday, Oct. 5.
“Our goal is awareness of the opportunities in manufacturing in the Chippewa Valley,” said Jeff Sullivan, dean of manufacturing and skilled trades at CVTC. “We’re collaborating with our local high school teachers in doing career planning with the students.”
Manufacturing Day is an annual nationwide event held the first Friday in October. CVTC typically marks it with groups of students from area high schools touring its Manufacturing Education Center, listening to panel discussions by current CVTC manufacturing program students, and taking part in some hands-on activities. For about half of the day the students tour local manufacturing plants.
“I want our students to be exposed to different options in manufacturing and connect it to their personal interests,” said Melissa Hansen, college and career readiness coordinator at River Falls High School, which brought 25 student to Manufacturing Day. “The exposure is the key. Today they can see where they can start and where they can go.”
“The students are gaining an understanding of the value of going to a two-year college,” said Winegar, who brought 43 students. “You don’t need a four-year degree to get into these positions, and these companies need workers.”
Included in this year’s Manufacturing Day was a pilot project focusing on Industrial Mechanics that involved Durand and Altoona students. Among one of the more intriguing activities involved a science and math experiment. A ping pong ball was placed in a hollow plastic tube, with different kinds and thicknesses of materials placed on each end. As air was pumped out of the tube, eventually one of the materials would fail, causing an inrush of air that would shoot the ball through the opposite end.
“The exercises we have planned help them learn to solve problems using math and science,” Sullivan said. Sullivan explained that the students involved in the pilot project spent time on fluid power, information technology and mechanical skills.
“The students are seeing small examples of things that tie directly into the real world,” said Kyle Danzinger, tech ed teacher at Durand High School. “They may see a machine only moving something three inches and have to troubleshoot why it isn’t working right. There are people who do that sort of thing for a living.”
Danzinger brought six students, all juniors, to the event. He didn’t know how many might be seriously exploring manufacturing careers, but there would be time for them to determine that for themselves.
“We need to expose them to it,” he said. “Maybe they like it, or they may learn that they don’t.”
Also participating were students from Blair-Taylor, Chetek-Weyerhauser, Fall Creek, Menomonie, Neillsville, Boyceville, Chippewa Falls, Bloomer, Independence, and Winter schools, plus others that came for the welding competition.