Selinsgrove – Keystone Wood Products Association (KWPA), a non-profit organization working to strengthen and expand the base of wood and wood product manufacturers in central Pennsylvania, recently donated funds to purchase three wood sanders for the Technology Education Department at Selinsgrove Area High School.
“We couldn’t be more grateful for the relationship we’ve developed with KWPA,” says John Aument, professor of technology and engineering.
KWPA’s donation updated belt sanders and added a spindle sander to the range of machines that students can use during carpentry classes that focus on the design process using 3D modeling.
“Using wood as a medium allows our students to develop measurement, problem solving and critical thinking while working with their hands,” says Jonathan Jarrett, professor of technology and engineering.
Additionally, wood is more environmentally friendly, widely available, and often less expensive to work with than other materials.
About 250 students in grades 9 through 12 choose to take electives in the program each year.
“Students come to our classes because they not only want to work with their hands rather than sitting in a typical classroom, but they also want to apply their critical thinking by building something,” says Jarrett.
Eleventh grader Andrew Gephart is one of them.
“I’ve always liked ‘hands-on’ work. It’s my passion,” he said. “I also love technology. Here you work with machines and computers. I can use Solidworks, make a 3D part or code the CNC machine.
Gephart, who plans to become an electrician, pilot or work with CNC machines in some capacity, is taking his fourth level of manufacturing technology course. He has made items such as a coffee table, a cutting board and an epoxy quote board that touts the saying “Quotes don’t work unless you make them”.
“I used the spindle sander for the quote board. All the machines KWPA has given away are awesome! The machines we had before did the job, but now we have options and I’m grateful for that,” Gephart says.
Grade 10 student Maddy Fertig said she used the donated machines to make her latest project: a bedside table.
“I took the Manufacturing Technology class in grade 9 and I knew I wanted to take more classes. I love what you can do here. It doesn’t feel like school, yet I’m learning so much. I want to be here. It’s so different from any other class I have,” she says. “I’m glad I took a shopping class and tried something new.”
The KWPA believes that programs like this make a difference in the lives of students.
“It’s been an invaluable experience to learn about wood manufacturing in this type of environment,” says Stephanie Phillips-Taggart, KWPA’s executive director. “The career and life skills learned in the carpentry shop and lab can give students a competitive edge in the job market and in life.”
According to program educators, Selinsgrove High School’s technology program is made possible by a number of factors, including students, teachers, administration, and the community.
“A lot of things need to fall into place. If you don’t have the backing or backing of the administration/school board, this program would be impossible as it is expensive to operate. Also, we have the support of the community and organizations like KWPA,” says Aument. “Children also play an important role. We have wonderful students here.
The same goes for the program instructors.
“They [Mr. Aument and Mr. Jarret] are awesome! They taught me a lot about machine use, 3D modeling and CNC coding. They helped me along the way,” says Gephart. “They’re just amazing people.”
Educators are always exploring connections that can positively impact the program.
“We work with our local technical trade school and learned about KWPA through the Sun Area Technical Institute,” says Aument. “It started our relationship with KWPA. The resources and connections that KWPA provides to companies, fields and guest speakers greatly enhance our course curriculum.”
Selinsgrove Area High School’s technology program aligns with KWPA’s mission to enrich the wood products industry through education, workforce development, and promotion.
“We are grateful for educational partnerships that impact the future of the industry,” says Phillips-Taggart. “Exposing students to the wood product manufacturing process can plant a seed that will grow into an exciting career in the industry.