Oct. 05--Dozens of high school students "clocked in" at General Motors'Lockport Component Holdings plant for the company's first-ever Manufacturing Week event in Niagara County on Wednesday.
The event started with a presentation by the Warlocks, Lockport High School's robotics team. After the demo, the Warlocks and the Circuit Stompers, Newfane High's robotics team, received checks from Mary Ward-Schiffert, chairman of UAW Local 686's Buy America Committee, to pay for American-made uniforms.
General Motors also presented $20,000 to four Niagara County charities. United Way of Greater Niagara, Junior Achievement, the Environmental Foundation of Soil and Water, and The Links Incorporated each received a $5,000GM Foundation grant.
Throughout the morning, 100 students and teachers from the Lockport, Newfane, Lew-Port and Niagara-Wheatfield districts toured the plant, stopping at different stations to learn about possible STEM-related career paths at GM.
"Here in Western New York we have the largest (GM) working population outside of Michigan," assistant plant manager Dan Hesch told the students before sending them on the tour.
The students' first stop had them learning about detecting small imperfections in the plant's products. Victoria Zenker, a GM Rochester plant area leader, explained the company's use of cameras to detect imperfections that are measured in microns.
"Who knows how big a micron is?" Zenker asked. When no one else responded, she did: A micron is one-170th the size of a human hair.
"We're looking through a Cognex camera at parts, which is a very key part of our process," Zenker said "We use cameras every step of the way."
Things took a unexpected turn for the students as they went into the next learning station. They were divided into teams and started playing a game of Environmental Jeopardy.
"When you think about engineering, you think about building things and getting the job done, but everyone here was really concerned about safety and the environment too. I really liked that," observed Lexi Maddea, a junior at Lockport High School.
The students learned that General Motors has 150 facilities that are landfill-free. They were asked questions about climate change and learned about GM's reduce, reuse and recycle approach, as the Jeopardy theme music played in the background.
"It was pretty fun," LHS senior Nate Brick said. " I won a cup!"
At their next stop, students joined GM's Mike Knob at an engine station. In front of them was a disassembled Z06 Corvette engine. They each took turns using impact wrenches and placing bolts and components onto the Corvette block, to learn a bit about how engines work.
"Almost every skill that is being taught at your schools right now would immediately (relate) to manufacturing," Knob said. "Science, technology, English and math, that's the basis for what we do."
The students' tour ended with remarks by state Assembly Member Mike Norris and Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey, and a boxed lunch at the plant. Then they headed back to school.
"They saw firsthand that there is manufacturing, that it's something that's attainable. It's one thing for me to tell them about it, or see it in a video, but to actually be in the building and see things first hand -- it's something that they can't get at school," observed Jerry Scherer, a technology teacher Niagara-Wheatfield High School. "It might spark an interest."
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