Technology camp gives teens hands-on modern manufacturing experience

The future of American manufacturing was on display for the U.S. Secretary of Commerce at the eighth annual Stihl Manufacturing Technology Summer Camp. New champions were named at the free camp, which was developed in collaboration with Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI) to promote careers in modern manufacturing by giving high school students hands-on experience in technology-based projects. Through an online application process, 36 high school students — from Virginia Beach to Tacoma, Wash. — were selected to participate.

The 2019 winning team, Fan Club: Fans of Quality. Pictured from left to right: Coach Gail Kelly, Stihl Inc.; coach Logan Zydzik, Stihl Inc.; Allison O’Dell, Ocean Lakes H.S., Virginia Beach, Va.; Rafael Viray, Grassfield H.S., Chesapeake, Va.; Myla Chappell, Grassfield H.S., Chesapeake, Va.; Liesl Boone, Kellam H.S., Virginia Beach, Va.; and Silas Turner, Stadium H.S., Tacoma, Wash.

During the four-day camp (July 24-27, 2019), students learned to build desk and handheld fans out of Stihl equipment components. Participants worked in small teams to develop technical, production and budgeting skills to find the most efficient way to construct prototypes. Through this challenge, students completed every step of bringing a product to market — from time studies and building electronics to marketing products to the judges. 

“These students are the future of modern manufacturing,” said Lorraine Amesbury Holder, vice president of operations at Stihl Inc. “At Stihl Inc., we recognized the ongoing skilled trades gap and the need for strong workforce development initiatives. By creating opportunities for students to learn about manufacturing, we grow awareness that will lead more young people to pursue these important skills-driven career paths.”

The students also received a visit from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who spent time with campers in support of the Pledge to America’s Workers initiative, a White House effort for training and retraining the workers needed across high-demand industries.

“Training the workforce of the future is one of the primary challenges being addressed by the Trump Administration,” said Ross. “Manufacturers in Virginia and throughout the country are struggling to find skilled workers. During my visit, it was impressive to see the enthusiasm of the instructors, the students, and Stihl executives who are committed to advanced manufacturing and training the next generation of skilled workers.”

On the final day, five teams competed to determine the best process to manufacture and assemble as many lamps as possible in a short time period. Each member of the winning team received a scholarship of $1,000 from the Virginia Industry Foundation. 

“I wanted a really fun experience with engineering because it’s not something that I had much experience with,” said Allison O’Dell, a rising senior at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Va. and member of the winning team, Fan Club: Fans of Quality. “I learned how to solder, I learned about building parts, I learned about teamwork, especially because we all worked really well as a team.”

The 2019 winning team members from team Fan Club: Fans of Quality — who built 13 desk fans — are:

•          Allison O’Dell, Ocean Lakes H.S., Virginia Beach, Va.

•          Rafael Viray, Grassfield H.S., Chesapeake, Va.

•          Myla Chappell, Grassfield H.S., Chesapeake, Va. 

•          Liesl Boone, Kellam H.S., Virginia Beach, Va.

•          Silas Turner, Stadium H.S., Tacoma, Wash.

•          Coach Gail Kelly, Stihl Inc., Virginia Beach, Va.

•          Coach Logan Zydzik, Stihl Inc., Virginia Beach, Va.

Academic, corporate and community leaders judged the competition. The 2019 judging panel included:

•          Delegate Glenn R. Davis, Virginia House of Delegates, 84th District

•          Rafael Landaeta, associate dean of the Frank Batten College of Engineering & Technology at Old Dominion University

•          Patrick Koelling, founder of EnvisionIT


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