Students partner with manufacturers for video contest

  • By Eric Morris

Students at several area middle schools this school year got to find out what’s “cool” about manufacturing, then they got to tell the world about it.

A statewide video contest requiring students to profile companies with the production of short videos introduced teams of middle schoolers to local manufacturers and potential career pathways.

“What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” is in its seventh year of competition and fourth year in the Pittsburgh region.

A team of seven students from Ben Franklin School in Uniontown was selected as the “Best of PA Nominee” in the contest’s Pittsburgh South region, which was contested by schools from Fayette, Greene and Washington counties.

The Ben Franklin students won the selection and represented the region at the Best of PA Contest for their profile of Sensus, a utility metering technology manufacturer.

“It’s nice to get partnered with students. We do all kinds of things at Sensus. It’s neat to see these kids come in and see what we do there — the different facets and different jobs — to maybe expose them to something they may want to do after high school,” said Scott Swanson, manager customer quality and engineer support for Sensus, a North Carolina-headquartered company under the Xylem Inc. banner that operates a manufacturing and assembly plant in North Union Township.

The students made three trips to the facility to learn about the manufacturer, interview Sensus employees and film footage.

“We talked to people and got an idea for what we would do when we do come to shoot. Once we figured out our main topics and storyline, we went to the factory to film and interview,” said eighth grader Grant Barcheck.

“A lot of times jobs in factories are looked down on, but this is trying to change that,” Barcheck added.

The video contest is intended to create a new perspective and awareness of career opportunities that exist in manufacturing for students and the community.

Pittsburgh area contests are produced by Catalyst Connection, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that provides consulting and training services to small manufacturers in southwestern Pennsylvania.

“Catalyst Connection’s main goal is to bring more awareness to careers that are available within manufacturing and STEM,” said Mary Wallace, education technology coordinator at Uniontown, who oversaw the Ben Franklin group.

Wallace brought in students from the high school video production team to help the middle schoolers brainstorm and understand how to use the production equipment.

“These kids really did a lot of problem-solving in putting this together,” Wallace said, noting the digital literacy and critical-thinking skills it built in the students. “It really made them look at media and STEM differently.”

In the local contest, entries were submitted by teams from Albert Gallatin, Brownsville, California, Connellsville (two teams), Peters Township, Laurel Highlands and Uniontown school districts.

In addition to its state contest nomination, Ben Franklin won first place for “Outstanding Creativity.”

Brownsville Area Middle School, partnered with Heartland Fabrication of Brownsville, captured first place in the categories of “Best Manufacturing Message” and “Best Promotion.”

Peters Township, working with IGS Industries of Meadowlands, took first in the “Exceptional Videography” and “Bonus Video” categories.

Laurel Highlands Middle School, profiling Hranec Corp. of Uniontown, was the winner of the “Viewer’s Choice” award.

Albert Gallatin North Middle was named “Outstanding Rookie School” for its work with Gerome Manufacturing of Smithfield.

Also participating in the program were manufacturers Better Edge of Scottdale, Ebtech Industrial of Connellsville and Pennatronics of Coal Center.

The Best of PA Contest featured 32 entries from 15 regions throughout the state. A panel of judges selected three winning videos, and a Viewer’s Choice Award was presented to the winner of a public vote, during a ceremony in Harrisburg attended by more than 500 people, including the Ben Franklin team, who were joined by representatives from Sensus.

Neil A. Armstrong Middle School of Bucks County was named state champion for its profile of Macron Dynamics.

While in Harrisburg, the Ben Franklin students were recognized on the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and presented citations for their achievement. The students visited with state Rep. Matthew Dowling and toured the House media center.