Offering Students a "Hands-On" Manufacturing Experience
SELINSGROVE—Keystone Wood Products Association (KWPA), a non-profit organization that strives to strengthen and expand the base of lumber and wood products manufacturers in Central Pennsylvania, recently donated funds to purchase three wood sanders for Selinsgrove Area High School’s Technology Education Department.
“We could not be more thankful for the relationship that we have developed with KWPA,” says John Aument, technology and engineering education teacher.
KWPA’s donation updated belt sanders and added a spindle sander to the array of machines that students can utilize during woodworking classes that focus on the design process by using 3D modeling.
“Using wood as our media allows our students to develop their measurement, problem solve and think critically all while working with their hands,” says Jonathan Jarrett, technology and engineering teacher.
Additionally, wood is more environmentally friendly, widely available and is often less expensive to work with than other materials.
Approximately 250 9-12th grade students opt to take elective classes in the program annually.
“Students take our classes because they not only want to work with their hands as opposed to sitting in a typical classroom, but they also want to apply their critical thinking skills by building something,” says Jarrett.
Eleventh grade student Andrew Gephart is one of them.
“I’ve always liked “hands on” work. It is my passion,” he said. “I also enjoy technology. Here you work with machinery and computers. I can use Solidworks, fabricate a 3D part or code the CNC machine.”
Gephart who is thinking about becoming an electrician, pilot or working with CNC machines in some capacity, is taking his fourth level of manufacturing technology classes. He has made items such as a coffee table, cutting board and an epoxy quote board which boasts the saying, “quotes don’t work unless you do.”
“I used the spindle sander for the quote board. All of the machines that KWPA donated are awesome! The machines we had before got the job done, but now we have options and for that I am grateful,” says Gephart.
Maddy Fertig, a 10th grade student, said she used the donated machines to make her latest project—a nightstand.
“I took Manufacturing Technology in 9th grade and knew I wanted to take more classes. I love what you get to do here. It doesn’t feel like school, yet I learn so much. I want to be here. It is so different from any other of my classes,” she says. “I am glad I took a shop class and tried something new.”
KWPA believes that programs like this one are making a difference in students’ lives.
“It is an invaluable experience to learn about wood manufacturing in this type of setting,” says Stephanie Phillips-Taggart, executive director of KWPA. “Career and life skills acquired in the woodshop and lab can give students a competitive advantage in the workforce and in life.”
According to the program educators, Selinsgrove High School’s technology curriculum is made possible by a number of factors—including students, teachers, administration and the community.
“A lot of things need to come together. If you do not have the support or backing of the administration/school board, this program would be impossible as it is expensive to operate. In addition, we have the support of the community and organizations like KWPA,” says Aument. “The kids also play an important factor. We have wonderful students here.”
The same can be said for the program’s instructors.
“They [Mr. Aument and Mr. Jarret] are awesome!” They have taught me so much about using the machines, 3D modeling and coding the CNC. They have helped me along the way,” says Gephart. “They are just amazing people.”
The educators are always exploring connections that can positively impact the program.
“We work with our local technical trade school and learned about KWPA through Sun Area Technical Institute,” says Aument. “This began our relationship with KWPA. The resources and connections that KWPA provides to companies, fields and guest speakers greatly enhance our class curriculum.”
Selinsgrove Area High School’s Technology program aligns with KWPA’s mission to enrich the wood products industry via education, workforce development and promotion.
“We are thankful for educational partnerships that impact the future of the industry,” says Phillips-Taggart. “Exposing students to the wood product manufacturing process can plant a seed that grows into an exciting career in the industry.”