Each year for Manufacturing Day, the Development Authority of Bulloch County works with schools, local industries and Ogeechee Technical College to show eighth-graders what manufacturing jobs look like firsthand.
About 175 eighth-grade students signed up for the Manufacturing Day experience on Oct. 6, reported Teresa Phillips, Bulloch County Schools executive director for career, technical and agricultural education. They hailed from all of the school system's middle-grades campuses. In this third year of the local Manufacturing Day program, a fourth industry, Brodie International, joined Briggs & Stratton, Great Dane and Viracon in hosting student tours.
Crystal Lewis, one of Portal Middle High School's counselors, accompanied 16 eighth-graders from Portal who toured the Brodie plant at the same time as a group of 30 or more eighth-graders from Langston Chapel Middle School. School buses made the rounds, giving each participating student a chance to see three of the four industries.
"Students have an opportunity to learn about the manufacturing world," Lewis said. "They have an opportunity to see things up-close and personal. We kind of did a survey with the students to see who would be interested in working in these fields once they start working in their adult life, so the group we have are students who are interested in manufacturing."
Brodie International, sometimes called Brodie Meter, makes precision flowmeters and other devices used around the world in the petroleum and motor fuel industries.
Brodie Plant Manager Ray Mosley asked the students who among them likes math and science. He showed them the two helical, or screw-like, rotors that work together inside some of Brodie's trademarked meters.
Easy to see in a crowd, the particular examples he used were the big eight-inch diameter rotors from a BiRotor Plus meter the company introduced earlier this year.
"A lot of mathematical formulas go into that on the design stage as well as the machine stage," Mosley said. "If you are looking at the helical interpolation here, a lot of trig is going on here. I keep impressing that point. Math and science and all of your subjects are necessary in industry."
Valyncia Wooten, a Langston Chapel Middle School eighth-grade math teacher, said her students aren't learning trigonometry yet. But they do study algebra and geometrical techniques, such as finding volumes. She liked Mosley's message.
"He's repeating exactly what I say," Wooten said. "I get a lot of students who ask me, you know, why do I need to know this type of math or why should I have to learn this, and I tell them that there's application in the real world in the careers that you pick, from being a pilot to working in a manufacturing field. Even my students who love videogames, I tell them computer programming has a lot of formulas."
Wooten knew that local manufacturers such as Brodie and Briggs & Stratton existed, but had never seen them up-close she said.
"I think I have a lot of ‘Wow!' moments the students are getting from me," she said.
Elsewhere, such as over the lunch served for them at Ogeechee Technical College, the students heard about the importance of "soft skills" such as being at work on time and following instructions. Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson even touched on this when he spoke briefly to the group.
OTC industry lab
Eighth-graders also got to see Ogeechee Tech's industrial maintenance lab and heard at lunch from two graduates of the college's Industrial Maintenance Fast-Track Program. The 12-week program's first session started in January, and its third cohort graduated a month ago.
The brief remarks by David Bunch, 24, employed by the Milliken textile finishing plant in Screven County, and Grant Duffey, 33, a former truck driver, illustrated that the fast-track program is open to students seeking first-time industrial maintenance jobs as well as those with experience who need to add skillsets.
Rachel Barnwell, economic development programs manager for the Development Authority of Bulloch County, coordinates the Manufacturing Day activities. By working with the industries, the schools, the development authority and sponsors were able to give the students a good representation of what local manufacturing jobs are like, she said.
"They're able to ask questions along the way, and some of them seem to be really interested," Barnwell said. "It was kind of neat to hear one of the ladies at Briggs tell me that she could see future engineers and future technicians just by their interest and the questions they were asking."
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.