• Joanna Gaden

Make It: Manufacturing! - October, 2018

Updated: Feb 15


  • The Setting: Iron Ridge Marketplace, bright and early

  • The Weather: Sticky

  • The Cast: 150 middle & high schooler students, 5 manufacturers, 10 volunteers, 7 teachers, and 3 entrepreneurs

  • The Plot: a showcase of manufacturing companies! Part field trip, part hands-on, ALL focused on exploration and fun!

Make It: Manufacturing!

Scene 1- The Showcase

Curtain opens to Iron Ridge Marketplace, a warehouse in Ferndale, Michigan, at the break of dawn. The sky greets groggy volunteers with pink clouds, mirroring their hazy morning moods and anticipation of the day ahead. As the morning brightens, the warehouse is flooded with humidity, the smell of coffee and chalk, and a variety of manufacturing materials that will be creatively designed to mimic the supply chain, using PVC pipe, wood, cups, marbles and many more everyday items. Before long, yellow buses with ‘Ferndale Public Schools’ painted boldly on the side cruise into the lot and confused, but eager middle and high schoolers pile into the parking lot of Urbanrest Brewing Co.

On October 9th, 2018, two ‘zones’ and six ‘stations’ were scattered around Iron Ridge Marketplace and Urbanrest Brewing Co. in the first ever Pathway X Events ‘Make It: Manufacturing!’ event. This fun showcase of real businesses aimed to assist 8th and 9th graders, ages 13 and 14, in grasping the importance and intrigue of participating in high demand manufacturing jobs. Local Ferndale manufacturing companies Fisher Unitech, Detroit Grooming Co., K-Tec Systems, Farm Field Table, and Jupiter Aerials demonstrated 3D printing, beard and body products, innovation and safety equipment, food manufacturing, and the multiple uses of drones in all types of business, respectively, to give participants a hands-on taste of the versatility in the single word: ‘manufacturing.’

Make It: Manufacturing!

Scene 2- Teen 2 Teen Talk

A week later, on October 16th at Ferndale High School, over 50 of the most engaged 8th graders from the Make It showcase scurried into the media center to learn more about the manufacturing industry at the ‘Teen 2 Teen’ follow-up presentation. The key component to this scene was having the teens hear from kids their own age talk about how important it is to start bringing your ideas, ANY ideas, to life. The Mack Brothers (two young men, ages 11 and 12 with three profitable business ventures),

and Alina Morse (a 13-year-old entrepreneur and founder of Zollipops) were the first speakers and then two drone companies (OHM Advisors and Jupiter Aerials), talked about the variety of uses that drone flying has in many types of businesses. All contributed meaningful information to the hour-long event, further encouraging students who are interested in pursuing manufacturing.

Students at the event were able to ask presenters questions about entrepreneurship, technology, and investment in their futures. To conclude the enlightening event, Jupiter Aerials brought the students to the edges of their seats as a small, but speedy drone whizzed past their heads.

Make It: Manufacturing

Scene 3- Family Night

On October 25th, the Make It series will conclude with a family night, offering resources in an informative follow-up event, held at Urbanrest Brewing Company in Ferndale from 5:30- 7:00 PM. Oakland County Technical School representative, Angela Haley, will speak about the next steps students need to focus on in high school in order to pursue a career in the manufacturing and technology fields. Detroit Grooming Co. owner, Mike Haddad, will present on entrepreneurship in manufacturing and what teens can do NOW to get started on their own or potentially helping out at his business. Please consider attending! RSVP: LetsDoThis@pathwayxevents.org

My role in the show: Inspiring and being inspired

Although I played a small role in part one and part 2 of the Make It: Manufacturing series, my favorite moments occurred at the showcase. As a volunteer and observer of the ‘Supply Chain’ station, featuring DIY Rube Goldberg machines, my 7 AM caffeine dose insufficiently prepared me for the rush of excitement that flowed into the warehouse as the future engineers, manufacturers, and innovators, designed, discovered, and navigated each station with more logic and creativity than I had imagined was possible. ​​And it wasn’t long before I was excited too, interacting with Michael who stood out from the group due to his independence and sheer passion for building and design, Shana who -- after her group left her for other activities in the room-- avidly worked on her design, admitting to me that she was interested in engineering, Lucas who already worked for his family’s landscaping and manufacturing company, and Bridget who built one of the most impressive Rube Goldberg machines despite her group’s hesitation with her more ‘complicated’ design.

I found myself thinking: “maybe some of these students will actually become engineers,” “maybe they’ll discover right here and now in this very warehouse that they can follow their passions and become whoever they want to be,” “maybe something as innocuous as flying a drone or assembling blocks for a Rube Goldberg machine will start a spark or fan an existing flame in them” … and even if I’m wrong in these assumptions, in the very least, these students learned that they like to work together as collaborators, or by themselves, or as creators, or as leaders; these skills will aid them in pursuing whatever career path they choose.

As we volunteers, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers debriefed the event, I discovered that I was not alone in this thought process. The Marketing Manager, Stacey Clement, from Fisher Unitech, a company which specializes in 3D printing, SOLIDWORKS software sales, and technical support, mentioned that she could see students’ eyes light up as they learned about and worked with their software and 3D printing technology. In fact, each and every student, volunteer, and teacher left Make It: Manufacturing! with a tangible, lasting impression of Fisher Unitech’s manufacturing success, taking home a personalized, 3D printed name plate!

Although the day was long and the clean up treacherous, I pulled out of the Iron Ridge parking lot feeling fulfilled. I’m not going to hyperbolize and claim that we inspired every single student that attended Make It: Manufacturing!, but even if we managed to inspire one student-- and we walked away confidently believing we did-- the day was a massive success.

Special thanks to Ferndale Public Schools for partnering with PxE and making these events possible. Check out FPS’s eBlast to learn more about Manufacturing Month and the businesses involved in Make It: Manufacturing! here and here. Stay tuned for more events as well as PxE’s expansion into other schools in October, 2019!

#manufacturing #teen #careerawareness #engaging