Company Graduates 15 Students from Inaugural Session of Program
Combine the expertise and passion of a tool manufacturing company with the interest and desire of high school students, and you end up with a win-win for the company and the school.
The Young Engineers Program started this fall at Greater Latrobe Senior High School. Kennametal Inc., a leader in manufacturing tools for various industries, joined innovators at the company with 15 Latrobe high school students for 13 weeks of in-depth classroom time at Kennametal offices, tours of their facilities, and a culminating team project.
Cindy Pompelia, teacher advisor for the program and AP calculus and chemistry teacher, said that Kennametal proposed the program to the district a year ago. “We wanted to do it and spent the summer working out the scheduling issues so we could start in the fall.“
Erica Clayton Wright, public affairs manager at Kennametal, explained that there were several reasons CEO Carlos Cardoso wanted to start this program. One was the impending retirement of their intellectual talent. “In our recruitment process, we are not finding people who can take on these valuable positions. At Kennametal, we want to be part of the solution. In addition, our CEO is passionate about manufacturing. He wants to reintroduce manufacturing to the public. Today’s students do not consider manufacturing as a career even though manufacturing jobs earn 25 percent more than the service industry.”
One of the participating students, 18-year-old Austin Faddish, was originally interested in the program for the insight he would gain about what he wanted to do, but “the main thing was being able to learn what an engineer really does,” he said. “At first, I thought it was sitting at a desk and working on CAD, but there is a lot of problem solving, math and working with a variety of tools.”
Program Nuts and Bolts
Students attended classes twice a week at the Kennametal headquarters about a mile away. The classes were taught by innovators, engineers, scientists, project managers, chemists and public affairs staff at Kennametal. The classes covered everything from the different types of engineering and optimization in manufacturing to corporate and social responsibilities and marketing practices.
“It was a serious dedicated effort on the part of the company to be able to engage the students effectively,” said Wright. The lessons were taught by a team of staff chosen as innovators by company leaders. Lesson subjects and who taught the classes rotated throughout the 13 weeks. “It generated a lot of enthusiasm among the employees since they could share their expertise. They were truly involved and created their own lesson plans,” said Wright.
According to Pompelia, the cross-subject matter lessons the students learned were incredibly valuable. The engineers at Kennametal explained their processes at the company from idea generation to product development and what would cause a project to get the green light or be stopped.
“All of the innovators were very excited. They had all this expertise and knowledge,” she added. “They created lesson plans and objectives. They were a little apprehensive because they were not used to 18-year-olds, but the students were more engaged with the hands-on lessons.”
Senior Jonathan Skoloda’s favorite part of the program was working with the experts in the field. “These guys really know what is going on. They worked one-on-one with us and we got to ask them questions.”
Taking the Tours
Pompelia also spoke highly of the two facility tours incorporated into the program. Students toured the Bedford plant that makes tools for mining, paving and drilling. They also travelled to Solon, Ohio, to see the aeronautics and aerospace plant.
“The staff members at the facilities were so prepared,” said Pompelia. “They would split us up and some would go to the floor, some would watch the design team and customer relations, and others would go see the CAD machines and software designs of some of the tools. It was great because the students got to see the robotics involved in manufacturing. Most kids think of a traditional assembly line when they think of manufacturing, but now they have seen the computers and software involved and just how fast it goes.“
The Big Project
The students put their knowledge into action with a culminating project designing a backpack for the future that incorporates different technologies. Pompelia explained that they went through the various procedures and check points that engineers go through at Kennametal when designing a product. Their projects were reviewed by the same panel of Kennametal staff that reviews the company’s projects.
According to Wright, the culminating project brought together “the engineering expertise the students learned with the disciplined business processes students would need to know to succeed in the marketplace.” As the students went through all the checks any innovator at Kennametal would go through, they got to experience how different representatives from finance, legal, engineering, research and development, and other departments become involved in a project.
Senior Paul Trumbetta’s favorite part of the program was the final project because it inspired a lot of creativity, particularly with the marketing, design and presentation. The project made him realize that “engineering is all about what is in your mind and having it come out and become a product.”
The program overall gave Trumbetta a greater insight into engineering as a whole. “It inspired me to continue my engineering interests and go on to college and get a degree,” he said.
“The advantage of a program like this,” said Trumbetta, “is when you take what you learn in class to the program and vice versa. You get to explore a real-life situation and it drives you in class because you know why you’re doing the classwork. It keeps you on track.”
The program definitely confirmed for Faddish that he would like to be a mechanical engineer, but he now wants to also concentrate on computer science. “I know what I want to do, which a lot of high school students don’t. I know what the expectations are in a real work place and not just a high school setting.”
For Skoloda, the program helped push him in the direction of aerospace and aeronautical engineering. “I now have some background knowledge and know what I want to do in college. Some people spend a lot of money trying to figure that out.”
“This was really beneficial for my students,” said Pompelia. “I can teach them and show them it is important, but it is forcing the issue and not realistic. It pales in comparison to what they did at Kennametal, seeing the engineers and what they do.”
Wright explained that this year is the program’s pilot year. They are defining the program and tracking student outcomes after completion. Kennametal will develop a toolkit for their other facilities to replicate the program. They have already changed around the subject order for the 11 students enrolled in the program’s spring semester. “We knew the program was good, but now we can make it better with the students’ feedback."