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Manufacturers Develop Learning Labs for Middle School Students

An essential part of creating a link between education and industry is building relationships between manufacturers and educators, parents, community partners, and students. Explore the New Manufacturing programs are designed to facilitate interaction and engagement through hands-on, minds-on labs, workshops, competitions, and challenges.

One of these programs, Explore Academies, provides fun opportunities for students to experience what it's like to be in production, quality control, environmental health and safety, maintenance, research and development, among other jobs within a manufacturing facility. The students who are selected for the one-day Explore Academies spend thirty minutes in each of the manufacturer-created labs. The interactionbetween students and participating manufacturers during these hands-on labs and workshops opens the door for meaningful dialogue and insightful questions. It might appear the gap between the worlds of middle school and manufacturing is too wide to feasibly close. However, once the participating manufacturers roll up their sleeves for the day and get to know the students and students"try-out" what it'd be like to have a career in manufacturing, bridging the gap happens rather quickly.Not only do the kids have fun, but the manufacturers do as well!

So, what do some of the hands-on learning lab look like?

ELEPHANT TOOTHPASTE

Ergon - West Virginia, Inc's lab focused on how the company relies on basic science concepts in its refinery operations. Located in Newell, Ergon produces highly refined paraffinic process and base oils, waxes, ultra-low sulfur gasoline and diesel fuels, kerosene solvents, and petroleum resins.

A RACE FOR SAFETY

Argos USA LLC focused on keeping employees safe and demonstrated the role personal protective equipment (PPE) plays in manufacturing safety action plans. In their lab, students competed in a relay race to see which teams properly put on PPE the fastest. Located in Martinsburg, Argos produces and distributes types of cement and aggregates including portland cement, masonry, block, and ready-mix concrete.

MAKING PAPER FROM TRASH

An environmentally friendly manufacturer located in Fairmont, the ND Paper mill produces 100% recycled fiber. The facility is one of only three pulp mills in the world that produces air-dried recycled pulp. In its lab students produced a scaled down version of recycled pulp by using paper scraps, water, a rolling pin, and a hair dryer.

PROCESS IMPROVEMENT WITH A CATAPULT

Ply Gem used catapults with flying ping pong ballsto help teach students the need for understanding scientific testing and tracking logistical details necessary for a successful manufacturing process. With operations around the country, including St. Mary's, Ply Gem is the largest producer of vinyl windows in the United States.

DO DEFECTS REALLY MATTER?

NGK Spark Plugs (USA) Inc knows first-hand how much customers rely on having engines that work. In its lab, students explored quality control issues by determining how well sensors meet with production specs and discussed why customers wouldn't want to pay for defective parts. Located in Sissonville, NKG manufactures spark plugs and oxygen sensors.

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