Kids find the cool behind manufacturing

By Gabriella Canales, Butler Eagle

The coolest part of manufacturing is creating something from nothing, according to 14-year-old Ryan McLister.

“Materials can start bare and turn into something cool and goes through a really long process just to go out in the public,” said the Butler Area Intermediate High School eight-grader.

Ryan is a member of two team at the local intermediate school participating in the annual “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing Video Contest” featuring brief operational films about local manufacturing companies in Butler. Student created videos highlighting Keystone Ridge Designs and Butler Technologies Inc.

Both teams now turn to the public for help and support to bring home this year’s first place award for the Pennsylvania contest’s Pittsburgh North division, which includes 11 teams. Voting opens Monday and ends Friday.

The local contest, sponsored by Catalyst Connection, encourages middle school students from neighboring districts to visit a local manufacturing company and create a three-minute video that answers the questions: What’s so cool about manufacturing?

Created in 2013 by the Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC) in Allentown, the statewide contest draws entries from teams across Pennsylvania. Each team of students and teacher coaches receive camera equipment, software, and professional guidance as they learn to script, record, and edit their video stories. The contest aims to change students’ perceptions about manufacturing careers.

There are 16 regional contests in Pennsylvania supported by local sponsors and partners in each region for the 2018-19 school year. The format has also been adopted by groups in 11 additional states.

Locally, Butler Area Intermediate School’s eighth-grade team is comprised of five students focused on Keystone Ridge Designs, a manufacturer of commercial site furnishings for outdoor public space environments. The seventh-grade team is made up of five students whose video featured Butler Technologies, an electronics manufacturer.

Manufacturing takes raw materials and transforms them into a functional product, said Angela Maloney, director of marketing for Keystone Ridge.

Students got a different perspective into how products come together while being exposed to many facets of business, according to Maloney. She said students watched production workers welding and sticking products into ovens, which helped them discover the cool behind manufacturing on their own.

Each group visited the company they focused to gather video footage and insights for their student-made films. Breit Cochran, a social studies and television/video production teacher who worked with the students, said projects took about two months to complete.

From their initial concept to shooting footage and post production editing, students portrayed the impact local manufacturers have on the community and nation.

Eighth-grade team member Bailee Kauffman, who narrated her team’s video about Keystone Ridge Designs, said each machine had its own role in building the product.

“I thought it was cool it could be built in a little city and go out to the whole entire world,” said 14-year-old Bailee.

This is the school’s second year participating in the competition, according to Cochran. Last year, the school’s one team highlighted Butler Technologies.

Ryan, who is participating in the contest for the second year, edited and wrote the narration for his team’s video.

“I thought something that was cool was how the manufacturer company’s main focus is to help the community,” he said. “They specialize in what they do and do their best job for the community.”

Seventh-grader Jessica Chwalik interviewed employees at Butler Technologies about their jobs and how each role contributes to the final product.

“Each person has such a big role in making one thing,” said 13-year-old Jessica, who edited her team’s video and worked on its narration.

Videos become part of a regional competition held March 28 at Community College of Beaver County. Teams compete for awards in various categories, including Viewer’s Choice where the public votes for their favorite student video between Monday and Friday.

According to science teacher David Andrews, science, technology, engineering and mathematics – commonly known as STEM – are a focus of education at Butler.

“This fits in so nicely with a lot of the engineering and design problems that we are trying to solve,” Andrews said. ” We talk about it in science class and they get to go see in real life how these things come into everyday products that they have.”

The video component also allows students to see the visual part of the experience while building team dynamics and collaboration skills, Andrews added.

Local companies also shared how they provide jobs, which is part of the impact of manufacturing on Butler County communities.

“Driving home that point that we not only make products that go out into this community and communities across the country, but people in Butler and surrounding areas are responsible for making, marketing and selling,” Maloney said. “It’s a snowball effect of what a small business can do in the greater community.”

Maloney explained how the contest goes beyond a video to become and important educational experience for area students.

“The more we expose children of all ages to different types of career paths and different opportunities that could be available for people of all different types of skills and talents, the better,” she said.

Andrews said he hopes the project helps students become open-minded to new careers. He pointed how students learn about all the smaller aspects that go into manufacturing companies that gives them job opportunities in the future.

“You hear manufacturing and everyone’s thinking some big warehouse with machines everywhere,” he said. “These are small companies, but they have such a big impact on the world. We think it’s Butler, but we have connections all over the world and it’s the manufacturing part they didn’t think about before.”

Ryan said the overall message behind the student videos conveys the positive aspects of manufacturing.

“I learned that it’s basically everything we use,” he said. “one of our messages was it’s the world around us, it helps everything.”