Explore the New Manufacturing is putting this question to the test with the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge. Partnering with West Virginia businesses, Manufacturing Innovation Challenge projects give high school teams the opportunity to find solutions to a real-world manufacturing problem. Teams tackle existing product problems and develop the application of concept ideas. Each challenge is unique and can come from various aspects of the company's operations. All projects are aligned with West Virginia Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) standards, curriculum, project-based learning efforts, and career exploration programs.
With a business-type approach, student teams navigate the challenge as if they were actual employees. Manufacturing Innovation Challenge teams are expected to work collaboratively, with each member in charge of one aspect of the project. This format style helps to reinforce soft critical skills that employers demand from all employees. From team building to problem-solving, students strengthen their self-reliance and confidence as they tackle the challenge. Perhaps the biggest takeaway comes in the form of communication skills. Within the team, efficient communication is critical on three levels. As a group, the students need to utilize clear communication techniques to ensure they remain on task. They must also interact professionally with their manufacturing partners. For many students, this is the first time they are faced with engaging potential employers. The final communication skill students must tackle is public speaking. Each team is required to make two presentations. The first is a formal presentation where the students discuss their roles, recommendations, and potential solutions to their manufacturing partners. In the second presentation, the teams must adapt their formal presentation into a fun, informative talk designed to get middle school students excited and interested in pursuing career and technical education opportunities.
"Watching how these young men and women worked together as a team was motivating and inspiring. Each idea was absorbed by all and never dismissed as not being a possible solution. I am very proud of each of these students for working hard and using their skills to complete the MIC Project," commented William Carte, Sensor Manufacturing Assistant Supervisor, NGK Spark Plugs USA, Inc.
Earlier this year, NGK teamed with Integrated Production Technology students from the Carver Career & Technical Center (Carver CTE) to tackle a production line issue resulting in an efficacy slowdown. The original problem stemmed from an inability to pull zip ties tight consistently and cut them properly. The team created a prototype that reverse engineered the process to demonstrate how their solution would improve attaching zip ties to an O2 sensor wiring harness. Students estimated that implementing their solution would decrease slips by 84% and increase the number of parts completed by 10%. NGK is in the process of adapting the students’ solution to their production line. Both the students and NGK walked away from the challenge with a stronger sense of accomplishment and pride.
The goal with all Explore the New Manufacturing programming is to build working relationships that allow educators and manufacturers to help middle and high school students discover new interests and career goals. For more information on the Explore the New Manufacturing program visit www.exploremfgwv.com.