In the spring of 2016, more than 40 local students gathered for the first open house of the brand new Alcoa Howmet STEM Exploring post located in Dover, New Jersey, in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America.
The students heard from company interns, executives, engineers, and plant workers to learn just a small portion of what a career in the STEM fields is like. From there, 23 students eagerly filled out their applications to join this new exciting program.
Engineering & Technology Career Exploring is a hands-on program open to young men and women from the 8th grade to 20 years old who have an interest in learning more about the career fields of engineering & technology. Alcoa Howmet is a global leader in lightweight metals engineering and manufacturing, and multi-material solutions innovation.
“The Alcoa Howmet Exploring program is a very fun activity and a social environment for me to explore different fields of STEM,” says Explorer Jake D., a 12th grade student. “I have enjoyed getting to work with other members of the post as well as Alcoa Howmet engineers to learn basic programming, how to build a robot, and refine the program of a robot as well.” Alcoa Howmet’s STEM Exploring post is designed to give area high school students a behind-the-scenes, first-hand experience with engineering and technology projects.
The first meeting of the post was a tour of Alcoa Howmet’s castings operations. The plant tour brought Explorers through the world-class complex where they learned how cast turbine airfoils for the aircraft engine and industrial gas turbine industries are developed. The plant tour also allowed students to learn about the “non-traditional castings” components normally fabricated from many parts, which are available as single castings with all internal passages and holes cast.
“Perhaps the most exciting part of the Exploring program is watching the Explorers grow and develop from the open house until now,” says Bill Miley, Plant Operations Manager for Alcoa Howmet’s Dover location and post executive officer. “We treat the Explorers like they are our employees because it’s important they receive the full workforce experience so they have a competitive edge above their peers.”
Students in the program receive personalized ID badges, access to different parts of the plant, and they even sign in as if they worked at the plant on a regularly bases. The Explorers are welcomed by employees as an everyday part of the Alcoa operations.
Beyond learning how to program and build a robot, students also began working with 3D printers. The post challenged students to think of a project that integrates computer aided design (CAD), computer aided manufacturing (CAM), and additive manufacturing (3D printing) to create something aligned with their interests. Three teams formed, elected leaders for their groups, and identified design goals to build a trebuchet, a quadcopter capable of carrying a payload, and a mobility assist device for people with physical disabilities.
In addition to collaborating on the CAD design, students have the opportunity to upload files and have them 3D printed in different materials. Explorers are able to gain experience in a variety of printing aspects including filament types, calibration, in-fill design, and product assembly.
“The program has exposed me to so many different STEM professions, and it allowed me to further explore my interests,” said 12th grade student Bailey S. “My favorite activity was programing and building the Sumobot!”
The post is also hitting the road! In November, the Explorers will visit the Alcoa Howmet Technology Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and they will partner with Picatinny Arsenal’s engineering team this coming winter to learn more about robotics. Additionally, the post plans to visit Boston Dynamics in Waltham, Massachusetts for their spring trip to explore a high-tech robotics lab.
According to the National Science Foundation, “In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.”
The alliance between the Boy Scouts of America Exploring Program and Alcoa Howmet hopes to do just that, allowing students to not only learn and develop their skills, but lead them into a STEM career.