As a “Project Lead the Way” teacher and coordinator at New Philadelphia High School in Ohio, I had an opportunity to participate in an Allied Machine and Engineering lean training last year, in the spring of 2013. I was excited to attend, and I thought I knew what it would be all about. I was right and I was wrong. What the training did was leave me with a whole new perspective how lean concepts can add value. I quickly realized I wanted to incorporate lean principles into my middle school and high school courses.
Soon after I found out about a grant offered by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (a philanthropic community foundation), sponsored by Duke Energy, called the ICAN Grant. ICAN supports teachers across 32 counties in connecting their classrooms with Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, or Medicine (STEMM) related businesses and professions. For teachers, it helps us make students aware of the high tech jobs available in their surrounding communities. I applied, was glad to receive the grant, and soon began coordinating with Steve Stokey, Allied’s Executive VP to plan a field trip to Allied with our 7th grade "Gateway to Technology" students as well as a lean simulation.
We worked with Quinn Wallick, Operations Enterprise Manager at Allied, and a graduate of New Philadelphia High School himself, to run Allied’s lean simulation and hold two learning sessions on basic lean concepts and tools. It was a hands-on learning experience and the kids had a blast. Our students (about 80) left with a new understanding of lean thinking and definitely a new view on manufacturing. As a teacher, you know something works when all of your students start excitedly asking questions and commenting on their experience. As I stood back and observed, I could see my students’ "ah ha" moments on their faces. Those moments are the rewards every teacher yearns for.
The next month, this same group of students visited Allied's Deeds facility in Dover, Ohio. Allied prepared live demonstrations and led our students on a tour of their new facility to see high tech process and machinery. When the group arrived, Stokey asked how many people were thinking of becoming engineers. Five or six students maybe raised their hands. At the end of the visit, he asked the same question again and more than half of the students raised their hands. By our targets, this was a success.
Lauren Miller, the 7th grade gateway teacher, wrote about the training in the school newsletter. And our students created a great video of their experience which they shared with at the Project Lead the Way county wide showcase.
If you’ve never heard of Project Lead the Way, check out the organization. Better yet, stop by a local high school that offers PLTW and get ready to be amazed! PLTW is a fantastic STEM program with the goal of creating a whole new generation of engineers. It offers students a rigorous curriculum grounded in real life problems. In my Intro to Engineering class, my students, mostly freshmen in high school, are given problems for which they reverse engineer, identify flaws, create the parts in Autodesk Inventor, and design solutions. They create drawings and print their parts on our Makerbot 3d printer. Parents are awestruck at the level of work their children do. Although it can be tough, students really enjoy the class. I know because half of them eat lunch in the lab or come after school to work on projects.
Let us know if you have questions for our students! I'll be sure to pass them along as we continue our lean learning.