Students learn about manufacturing at weeklong academy offered by NTI
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.