Students at McDowell High School in Millcreek Township School District, PA, run all aspects of this manufacturing business producing parts for companies near and far. Teacher/Advisor, Kyle Bucholtz, and several students describe their experiences and the impact of the opportunities. Great example of what is meant by career ready!
Contact Kyle Bucholtz: email@example.com
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Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Instructional coaches and leaders create the environment that supports teachers to continually imagine, grow and achieve. They model an excitement for learning that teachers in turn model for students. This podcast is dedicated to promoting the important aspects of instructional leadership. Thanks for listening.
Steve : 00:28 Real work equals real learning at school. This podcast was triggered when I read the following news headline: “McDowell manufacturing, a company inside the high school is producing real parts and career interest. It intrigued me, I needed to learn more. So I fired off an email to Kyle Buckholtz the tech advisor for the program and he agreed to join us on this podcast. So welcome Kyle.
Kyle : 01:00 Thank you for having me.
Steve: 01:00 Kyle, I’m wondering if you would just jump in by kind of painting a picture for people. If they were there for a day at McDowell manufacturing, what would they see happening?
Kyle : 01:12 Sure. We have 51 students enrolled in the program right now, and those students would be working on producing parts for real companies right here in Erie, Pennsylvania, but also doing the quoting, doing the accounting, doing the job estimation, in terms of material costs and things like that. So the full gamut of a business operation would be occurring, not just the production of the parts, but the business end of it too, right here in McDowell.
Steve : 01:40 Could you talk about the the vision that you guys had and the process that you went through that got you to the point of of developing this?
Kyle : 01:52 Yeah, it was kind of a synergy between a nonprofit here in New York called NWRC – Northwest Industrial Resource Center and the school district’s vision for where we should be going in terms of career training. It all came together two years ago at the same time. It was this amazing experience that happened where the NWRC approached us and said, hey, we have this great idea for a student run enterprise and I think your facility would be a great facility to have it. That was at the same time the district was committing to renovating and adding equipment to our area down here and that kind of collided. And we were able to to put this program together and and have this student run enterprise right here at McDowell high school.
Steve : 02:39 So the piece that I read that caused me to get ahold of you, it said the students are working with 30 companies and that they’ve produced over 7,000 parts and that the students really are engaged in all aspects of it from a company standpoint. Could you give me a little clearer picture of what all aspects means?
Kyle : 03:05 Yeah. Actually we have eight customers right now in terms of companies. We’ve worked through tours and things like that with those 30 companies and we’re well over 7,000 parts. I promise you that now. But all aspects refers to, they’re actually communicating with the customers, they’re communicating with our suppliers for our materials, they’re going and getting those quotes on how much does the material cost. And then backing that process up and figuring out what do we need to charge the customer for those parts. So that end of it, but also the end of it in terms of production, in terms of drawing the parts in our CAD and cam software, they’re working on that. And I’ll be honest, they’re also working on cleaning the shop and making sure it looks nice. So it is truly all aspects of the business. It’s not just one part of just machining. It’s the full business. And I get the question a lot on, do you break the students up into different categories? We do in terms of different job roles, but when there’s something that needs to go out the door and that part needs to be shipped today, we have all hands on deck. So the person that was doing the accounting might be doing production at that point, just so we can meet the demands of our customers.
Steve : 04:22 The real concept of of teamwork.
Kyle : 04:25 Sure, absolutely.
Steve : 04:27 I’m delighted that you had a couple of students who could join us here. So I’d love to hear the students talk about their experiences. So anybody want to jump in first?
Student 1 : 04:43 I know that I personally have always enjoyed coming in and doing even the accounting aspect as well, but I’ve really enjoyed the designing part. I know that’s something that will put me ahead of other students as well, but I really enjoy getting that drawing and then having to design it. It sometimes might not be as easy as it seems, it might be a little bit more difficult than other times, but it’s amazing to see how that small drawing can turn into the actual part. And then when we hear about those parts being shipped out to Texas or other parts of the country, it’s amazing that we made that our little small town of Erie and that people are using it around the United States.
Steve : 05:19 Very cool. Very cool. Someone else?
Student 2 : 05:24 I know for me, my favorite part of the whole process is getting to machine the part and see it actually from the life after all the hard work of going through contact with companies and drawing and redrawing. I just like to see a tangible sort of like proof of our hard work.
Steve : 05:40 So it’s a real payoff. It sounds like it’s different from an A on a test. A different payoff?
Student 2 : 05:49 Yeah.
Steve: 05:50 Yeah. And the other student there – go ahead.
Student 3: 05:57 So my favorite part is just the machines themselves. They’re some of the coolest things you will ever see in your entire life. They’re so impressive to watch run. And for people that want to go into like a machining field, this is the perfect opportunity for them because it will help them go to college and it gives them skills necessary to actually get a job in the real world.
Steve : 06:17 Well, you actually led me into the next question I was going to ask. So maybe you can extend it a little bit and we’ll come back to the to the other two ladies there. I was going to ask you how you thought the experience you’re having now might be impacting you in a future directions or decisions.
Student 3 : 06:39 It’s just experience, like I said. Our big motto here is like, these machines are the future, the experience we’re getting here, this is bringing us and a lot of the engineering community into the future in that aspect. So it’s just helping with the next big step in manufacturing.
Steve : 07:01 I guessing that if the opportunity wasn’t there there’s probably not another place as a student that you could see and even know about these opportunities?
Student 3: 07:16 Absolutely right.
Steve : 07:17 Ladies want to jump in? Your thoughts about how it might impact you your future thinking or decisions?
Student 1: 07:24 Yeah. So I know for me, I’m definitely looking into going into engineering and as a female in not field, I feel like this really sets me apart from my competition because I gained some experience now in high school and learning some of these things now, whereas people might not have that until further down the road. So I think it’s very beneficial aspect.
Student 2: 07:47 And I know for me personally, something that we use a lot is those drawings I’ve talked to other engineers,and I’ve shadowed some other ones and their biggest thing is that we’re learning how to use those programs. But of course, you can learn to use those programs on your own, you can always learn to use those things, but we have the experience of seeing an actual part. There are times when on the computer, it might look perfect. It might completely run. And then we’ll put in the machine and we’re like, what is going on? And so, it was this something like fixing those situations, we’re getting the experience of how, if we make a mistake, what we need to fix it, how to look through and see what’s going on. And I think in future in engineering, that’s something that other students won’t have. They might know how to run the program, but I’ll know the difference of, oh, well this is in your program, but I know that this doesn’t work, where they’d spend hours trying to figure out why it’s not working.
Steve : 08:38 I think I’m hearing critical thinking is a piece of what you’re learning.
Student 2 : 08:42 Yes, very much so.
Steve: 08:42 That’s terrific. Terrific. Students, before I leave you to wrap up with Kyle I’m wondering what I didn’t ask that I should have asked. What is it about other schools that are thinking of of a program along this line that would cause you to encourage them to to look at it?
Student 2 : 09:08 I would say there’s no reason not to do it. We have an opportunity and everyone should take any opportunity they can, as it always sets you apart from others. But I think the biggest thing is not only teamwork, they’re learning things that will help you communicate better with others. You’re also learning better things that’ll help you set it up, set you apart as terms of education and work experience. So you’re getting benefits on all three aspects and I think any of those benefits, even one would encourage you to try and take the opportunity.
Steve : 09:38 Kyle, I’m definitely hearing career ready.
Kyle : 09:40 Yea. We try, we try.
Steve: 09:40 So Kyle, I’m wondering what recommendations you might have for other educators looking at how their districts might create a similar possibility for students.
Kyle : 09:55 I think one of our biggest goals when we put this program forward was making it an environment that was inclusive for all students. I think a lot of times, traditionally, in technical education shops, it was intimidating to people in terms of it may not be the cleanest environment, it may be loud and it scared some students away just in terms of intimidation. And we really put a huge focus on making an environment in the classroom here that’s super clean. We have plants all over bright lights, windows. We made an environment that makes it exciting and fun, but also a place that’s welcoming. And I think that really has contributed to our enrollment numbers, having this really nice facility that students want to be part of. And that would probably be one of my biggest things is to encourage people to do that.
Kyle : 10:49 The other would be providing the latest and greatest technology that you possibly can. Obviously budgets matter. But we really tried to push the boundaries of technology. So Fifth Axis, Milling Black Tool Lathe Operations, we just got a robotic welder in that we’re one of the first educational institutions in the country to have this model and AJ was actually programming it yesterday. So it’s it’s an awesome piece of equipment, but that’s the other thing is push the boundaries of technology because you have these technology natives here that know how to do it all. You’re able to push those boundaries and and keep them excited on the future manufacturing.
Steve : 11:30 I’m just laughing to myself, thinking about my seventh grade shop class and how funny it would be for you kids to take a look at the limited set of of tools to bang and shape something was about all that that was there. So it’s just been great to listen to what opportunities are here. Kyle, I’m wondering what’s the best way that that listeners might get back in touch with you to ask some more questions or find out additional advice from you?
Kyle : 12:07 Yeah, sure. Email is honestly the best way. My last name – firstname.lastname@example.org. And just email me and I can put you in contact with myself or Bobs Zaruda from NWRC, who has been a foundational partner in this program to making it all happen too.
Steve : 12:32 Thanks a lot. And we’ll be sure to to put your email in the lead-in to this podcast so folks can find it students. Thank you so much and give my best to your staff and the rest of the students in your program. I hope you continue your excitement to be on the cutting edge of where learning can take us off. Thanks for joining me.
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