Academy points students toward manufacturing

12 Jun 2015

Area students spent part of their summer exploring career opportunities in the manufacturing field.
The Advanced Manufacturing Academy Summer Camp was held over the last two weeks at both Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) and Cleveland State Community College (CSCC). Students entering their junior and senior years of high school in McMinn, Meigs, Polk and Bradley counties who have signed up for new mechatronics and electromechanical classes next fall were invited to attend.
Each week of the camp focused on a different aspect of career readiness.

The academy wrapped up its second week yesterday at CSCC with the final day of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) camp that introduced the students to Textrix - the step-by-step process of building a robot and understanding each part of the process.

DENSO Manufacturing Athens Tennessee donated the materials to build the robots. The STEM camp culminated with the students programming and controlling the robots they spent the week learning how to design and build.

Teachers from several area high schools attended the camp to help prepare themselves to instruct students on the latest industrial technology.

"The key is how we can implement this to the kids and use it in our classrooms," said Meigs County High School Senior Math Instructor Kevin Choat. "A lot of kids don't see any use for mathematics, but something like this will catch their eye. Anything that is mechanical or technologically advanced, they love it. We need every single opportunity to get these kids motivated; they need something to look forward to."
"We wanted to see how the robotics work," agreed McMinn Central High School Drafting Instructor Jimmy Hicks. "I grew up with no technology, but we have to learn and this has been a great learning experience. Kids are a lot more technology-ready than I am; they've been brought up with this and that's a big advantage."

While providing the students with a hands-on learning experience, educators who participated in the camp also hoped to remove the negative stigma sometimes associated with manufacturing careers.
"So many kids think they have to go to (a four-year) college, but that's not realistic in today's time," said Patty Weaver, Cleveland State's director of off-campus sites. "We got them away for manufacturing and industry, which are very viable and career-oriented jobs. Now, we have to do another cultural shift and it's going to take some time; this is a beginning."

"Manufacturing isn't just an assembly line; there are tons of careers in that field," added McMinn County High School Drafting Instructor Mary Beth Smith Brown.

And those careers can be just as lucrative - if not more - than if a student earns a four-year degree.
"Students who really put the effort into it can be become programmers and technicians and can probably make as much money as anybody else," said Hicks.

The first week of the camp was a Career Exploration Academy held at TCAT.

The week one curriculum included the following sessions:

  • Economics of Manufacturing with Scott Underwood from Maxwell Industries
  • Time Management/Problem Solving with Melissa Tullock from E&E Manufacturing
  • Workplace Behavior/Safety/Teamwork with Don Kahler from DENSO
  • Resume Writing/Job Seeking/Interviewing with Carla Wade from Tennessee Career Center
  • It's awesome that business and industry, and our school systems are all coming together in this collaborative effort to provide this type of thing for students," said Weaver. "It forms a link to the jobs that are out there."

DENSO and E&E Manufacturing also opened their doors to the students for plant tours during the first week of the camp.