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STEM teachers see impact of Manufacturing Day tours

Sierra College organized visits to local businesses
By: Staff report
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The tours of Sacramento-area companies organized by Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies and the Sierra Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Collaborative have lasting impact long after National Manufacturing Day. according to Placer County high school teachers.

Steve Dicus, IB Design Tech teacher at Oakmont High School, who toured Harris & Bruno International in Roseville, reported he is able to tie the experience into his instruction throughout the semester: “What students saw on the Manufacturing Day Tour was relevant to what we are doing in the classroom. It helps connect what we do in class with the real world.”

It also encourages students to consider Advanced Manufacturing careers.

“Talking to employees working in the field helps students make decisions about what does and doesn’t interest them,” Dicus said.

Dan Frank, who teaches Engineering Support Technology at Rocklin High School, had a similar experience after his students toured RobbJack in Lincoln: “As a result of the tour, my students seemed more committed to the program and can see themselves becoming technicians and engineers. Students really connected to individual employees who talked to them about welding, organizing the shop using 7S or programming CNC machines to create prototypes.”

Frank reported that before the tour, his students learned about 7S, a system businesses use for organizing work areas to increase efficiency and safety.

“Seeing 7S methods used at RobbJack inspired students to organize our shop tools by grouping them and outlining them on a pegboard,” Frank said. “The tooling is also sorted, organized and labeled in reusable plastic pick-bins or in our tooling rack.”

Tom Stargaard, who teaches Programming and Tech Core at Del Oro High School, went with his students to Progressive Technology in Rocklin: “Most students had never seen a real manufacturing facility before.”

“It was extremely important for them to see the level of quality and precision the real world requires,” he added. “For some, it was also an eye-opener that if the company makes a mistake, it pays for it. Now that the importance of quality and precision has been demonstrated at a manufacturing facility, the students see the reason for it in the classroom.” 

Industry connections are vital to providing instruction that prepares students for STEM careers in design and manufacturing according to the teachers.

“By being in regular contact with industry, teachers learn what their future employees need to know,” Stargaard said. “Input from industry, especially the Sierra College Mechatronics advisory committee, has really shaped my curriculum in all my classes.”

Jonathan Schwartz, who teaches math and engineering at Colfax High School, toured RobbJack with his students: “I am developing more application-based math curriculum. The more I go out and visit industry, the more authentic applied math lessons I am able to create.”

Teachers appreciate the support in arranging the Manufacturing Day tours.

“These tours are very valuable, but to organize them would take too much time to do on my own,” Schwartz said. “The only way trips like this can happen is through Sierra College and Carol Pepper-Kittredge’s contacts, time and financial support. I asked my students when they last went on a field trip, and they usually say third or fourth grade. If it wasn't for Sierra College’s support, they wouldn’t get this high school field trip that could impact their future education and career plans.”

Through the Sierra STEM Collaborative and Advanced Manufacturing Sector grants provided through the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, Sierra College collaborates with both industry and instructors to prepare the future workforce, explained Pepper-Kittredge, CACT director, Sierra College.

“Arranging student tours, linking teachers with businesses for externships, providing equipment for school design and engineering labs and encouraging STEM career exploration, especially in the advanced manufacturing sector, are making a difference in better connecting education to employment,” she said. “For example, a former high school student attended a tour last year and is now at Sierra College studying mechatronics and is working part-time for a local manufacturer.”

Additional information is available at www.sierracollegetraining.com, or contact Pepper-Kittredge at (916) 660-7801 or cpepper-kittredge@sierracollege.edu.