Middle school students from across Northeast Mississippi are getting a firsthand look at the advanced manufacturing industry during the Tek2Go Advanced Manufacturing camp at Itawamba Community College’s (ICC) Belden Center this week.
Fifteen sixth through eighth graders from Chickasaw, Itawamba, Lee, Monroe, Pontotoc and Union counties are learning skills in computer numerical control (CNC) machining, welding, robotic welding/painting as part of the camp.
Keira Ivy, an incoming freshman at Houston High School, wasn’t initially interested in welding, but joined the camp on the recommendation of her guidance counselor.
So far, “it’s been fun,” she said.
“I wanted to learn more about mechanics,” Ivy said. “And I just wanted a personal experience up close to welding.”
Ryver Aydelott, an incoming seventh grader at Guntown Middle School, already had experience with welding with her father, who works in the profession. In fact, she brought her own welding helmet, gloves, jacket and cap to camp on Tuesday
“I wanted to learn more about welding and how to function with machines,” Aydelott said. “My dad does the same thing, so I just wanted to give it a go.”
Students who attend the camp get to see what advanced manufacturing is all about. It might even help some choose a career path, Jason Gholston, a diesel equipment technology instructor at ICC, said as he assisted students at welding stations on Tuesday.
Gina Black, the Community Development Foundation’s Director of Events, helps organize Tek2Go each year. She said the basic goal of the camp is to introduce students to advanced manufacturing because it’s such a major industry in Northeast Mississippi.
ICC, CDF, Hawkeye Industries and the Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Foundation partner to host the camp, which is free to participants thanks to grant funding from the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund and Tennessee Valley Authority.
John David Hagood, an incoming eighth grader at Guntown Middle School, said he’s been looking into engineering careers and thinks it’s a good option for himself. He said it’s been fun to see how all of the machinery works.
“We’ve made our own pens, we’re making a plaque we’re about to weld and we got to work with these robots,” Hagood said, gesturing to a Yaskawa 6 axis robot.
Mac Marcy, an incoming sixth grader at Mooreville Middle School, said he signed up for the camp because he “wanted to try and work on some machines and see how things are made.”
He was excited to see that the camp allowed him to work directly with machinery, and his favorite part was making an aluminum ink pen on Monday.
Along with hands-on classes, the week’s schedule also includes visits to Hawkeye Industries and MTD Products in Tupelo.