Twenty-two Darke County, Ohio, seventh and eighth graders recently participated in a week-long summer camp where they learned about manufacturing and engineering. During this camp, four manufacturing facilities sponsored the program, including the Whirlpool Corp. manufacturing plant in Greenville, Ohio, which makes KitchenAid brand small appliances, including the iconic stand mixer. During those four days, each manufacturing plant had one day to work with the students and teach them different skills, ranging from robotics work to creating a marketing plan.
In 2019, Darke County Economic Development created a partnership with Greenville City Schools, Edison State Community College, and local manufacturers to create a program that would bring manufacturing and engineering opportunities back to their youth. Since the start of the program, they have grown to 22 campers and have some returning members as well. This program has opened many childrens’ eyes to pursuing a career in manufacturing and has given them different options regarding what they could do for a career post-high school graduation.
I really enjoy it and I always have. I think these community initiatives are really important to help our economy grow and to keep younger generations within Darke County.”
For eighth grader Austin Singer, manufacturing wasn’t on his radar before this camp—this experience has introduced him to different pathways for his future. Singer said, “Everybody was really positive and welcoming, so if I happen to change my mind, manufacturing will be where I go.”
Whirlpool Corp. Greenville Operations Communications Assistant Cassie Rapier is happy that this program gives kids options for pursuing a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and manufacturing.
“I support this initiative because when you’re in high school, a lot of people push you towards college as the only step to take after high school, and I feel like that’s not necessary because Darke County has a strong manufacturing industry presence with so many great career opportunities,” Rapier explained.
On the first day, the campers are given a theme for the week, divide into groups and presented with a project to solve by the end of the week. Each day, the kids spend the morning at the Career Tech Center at Greenville High School to work on their projects and then spend the afternoon at one of the four manufacturing facilities. While they’re at these facilities, they learn the different career opportunities available to them.
The theme for this year’s camp was “Connect the Dots.” The students participated in activities that connected them to the four manufacturing facilities sponsoring the event so they could picture themselves working there.
At the end of the week, all campers come together to present an elevator pitch presentation of their project and how they solved the problem posed to them. At these presentations, community members can sit in and listen to the students to see what they’ve accomplished.
Singer’s challenge was to create a product or service to help students arrive and be ready for school on time. His group decided to create a product that automatically cooks bacon in the morning and circulates the smell through the air to help kids wake up.
“I was the main engineer on the project so I did a lot of work on it,” Singer said. “I mean, who doesn’t like bacon?”
“It’s rewarding to be a part of programs like this one because I love doing things in the community,” said Rapier. “I really enjoy it and I always have. I think these community initiatives are really important to help our economy grow and to keep younger generations within Darke County.”