Stu­dents learn about man­u­fac­tur­ing at week­long academy of­fered by NTI

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - BRENDA BERNET

SPRING­DALE — Paul Trib­ble, a home-school stu­dent go­ing into ninth grade, can’t solve a Ru­bik’s Cube, but he helped build a ro­bot that can.

The Lego Mind­storms EV3 ro­bot can solve the 3-D puz­zle in 20 to 25 moves, he said.

Paul, 13, and 20 other stu­dents ages 11 to 16 built the ro­bots from scratch dur­ing the sec­ond sum­mer Young Man­u­fac­tur­ers Academy of­fered by North­west Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tute’s Busi­ness and In­dus­try Train­ing Cen­ter.

The week­long academy in­cluded mak­ing ob­jects at the ed­u­ca­tional 3-D print­ing com­pany NWA3D and the Fayet­teville Fab Lab, learn­ing about waste­water treat­ment at Beaver Wa­ter Dis­trict, meet­ing with a Tyson Foods ex­ec­u­tive and tour­ing the Kawneer man­u­fac­tur­ing plant.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers in North­west Arkansas need work­ers, es­pe­cially ma­chin­ists, said Tom Frek­ing, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of eco­nomic and work­force de­vel­op­ment for the in­sti­tute. They of­ten have to re­cruit out of state. High schools in the area are de­vel­op­ing new pro­grams fo­cused on trades.

“It’s run­ning ma­chines, pro­gram­ming ro­bots,” Frek­ing said. “It’s not dirty work.”

The sum­mer academy pro­vided ex­pe­ri­ences for younger stu­dents to learn about mod­ern man­u­fac­tur­ing, Frek­ing said. It was spon­sored by the Arkansas State Cham­ber of Com­merce and paid for with a $5,000 grant from the Gene Haas Foun­da­tion. In 1983, Haas founded Oxnard, Calif.-based Haas

Au­to­ma­tion, a ma­chine tool builder.

Busi­nesses and schools are putting a greater em­pha­sis on mak­ing par­ents and their chil­dren aware of the op­por­tu­ni­ties that ex­ist in man­u­fac­tur­ing, said Mike Har­vey, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at the North­west Arkansas Coun­cil. The coun­cil fo­cuses on re­gional eco­nomic and work­force de­vel­op­ment projects. In ad­di­tion to po­si­tions con­nected to ad­vanced au­to­ma­tion, com­pa­nies still need em­ploy­ees to re­pair the ma­chines, he said.

Learn­ing trades gives stu­dents op­tions to earn a liv­ing with­out a col­lege de­gree or use skills as they con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion in col­lege, Frek­ing said. Com­pany ex­ec­u­tives who met with the stu­dents this week en­cour­aged them to re­mem­ber what they learned about man­u­fac­tur­ing when they go to col­lege.

“I didn’t re­ally know what the pro­cesses were for a fac­tory,” Trib­ble said.

A les­son on weld­ing dur­ing the academy gave Caden McHaney, 13, of Siloam Springs, a chance to use an arc welder to write his ini­tials in metal, he said. Caden, who is go­ing into the eighth grade at Siloam Springs Mid­dle School, also used a 3-D printer to make parts to build a plas­tic Bat­man fid­get spin­ner.

He wor­ried the week would con­sist of lec­tures and note-tak­ing, he said.

His sis­ter Chloe McHaney, 16, is in­ter­ested in edit­ing or pub­lish­ing, but the academy gave her a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of ad­vances in man­u­fac­tur­ing and about ca­reers in the in­dus­try. She’ll be a ju­nior at Siloam Springs High School.

Hunter Keen, 15, is home­schooled and is in­ter­ested in a man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­reer. His dad works at the Glad Man­u­fac­tur­ing’s plas­tic fab­ri­ca­tion plant in Rogers.

“I came here to learn,” Keen said. “It gives me an idea of what jobs are in high de­mand.”

“You have to have skills that are used in the plant to be man­age­ment,” Frek­ing said. “New lead­er­ship will be peo­ple that are com­ing off the floor.”

The Busi­ness and In­dus­try Train­ing Cen­ter pri­mar­ily of­fers short-term train­ing pro­grams for adults in the work­force to ad­vance their skills, Frek­ing said. About 900 stu­dents at­tend classes from Jan­uary to June.


Paul Trib­ble (from right), 13, Caden McHaney, 13, and Hunter Keen, 17, mon­i­tor their Lego Mind­storms com­puter Fri­day dur­ing the Young Man­u­fac­tur­ers Academy at North­west Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tute in Spring­dale. The com­puter was able to solve a Ru­bik’s Cube. NTI’s Busi­ness and In­dus­try unit re­ceived a $5,000 grant to of­fer the academy for a sec­ond year. Stu­dents re­ceived lessons in weld­ing, used 3-D print­ers and toured Kawneer as part of the ac­tiv­i­ties.


Daniel Sharon, 14, dis­as­sem­bles a Lego Mind­storms com­puter Fri­day dur­ing the Young Man­u­fac­tur­ers Academy at North­west Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tute in Spring­dale.

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