by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

Photo of NWIRC's Bob Zaruta with a few students from McDowell Manufacturing, a student-run enterprise
Bob Zaruta, NWIRC President/CEO, with a few students from McDowell Manufacturing, a student-run enterprise

Last month, the team at McDowell Manufacturing (a student-run enterprise at McDowell High School in Erie PA) had the opportunity during an open house to showcase their inaugural year success – and the list is long. This first-year program had 23 students participate (and their initial goal was 7). There are already 45 students enrolled for the 2021-2022 school year (even more applied). Derek Hillhouse, McDowell Manufacturing’s student Production Manager, said they collaborated with eight companies, two seniors have already received full time job offers, and several students have secured part-time summer jobs. The enterprise delivered their first order of parts to Munot Plastics this past March and they are also working on projects for EFI Connections and Eriez Magnetics. During the open house, students toured community leaders, local manufacturers, and the media through their state-of-the-art technology lab. They highlighted various Haas equipment (3 and 5 Axis CNC Mills and Toolroom Lathe), Lincoln COBOT Robotics Welder with Fanuc 10xi 6-axis arm, Mitutoyo Quick Scope Imaging System, 3D Printer, and CAD computer lab. They also showcased a coordinate measuring machine (CMM) that measures geometry of physicial objects to ensure parts produced meet the highest quality industry standards.

Photo of PA DCED Secretary, Dennis Davin and McDowell Manufacturing Advisor, Kyle Bucholtz
(L-R) PA DCED Secretary, Dennis Davin and McDowell Manufacturing Advisor, Kyle Bucholtz

During the remarks, Millcreek Township School District Superintendent Dr. Ian Roberts put it best saying “You are witnessing and supporting the future of manufacturing, not only in the Erie community, but in the Commonwealth and quite frankly the country.” He recognized McDowell’s Kyle Bucholtz, as the “rockstar” teacher/advisor for the program, and the commitment of the school district, Principal, students, and collaborative partners. Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin was a special guest at the event and spoke of manufacturers across the state challenged with finding workers. He stressed the importance of programs like this for creating future talent to serve existing companies, and those looking to expand or relocate in our region. Cooper Coursey, one of the lead production managers and recipient of NWIRC’s $500 student scholarship said in his application video, “Efficient, inspiring and intelligent are the words that come to mind when I think of McDowell Manufacturing. The benefits I have received are countless, including communication skills, team building – and working in an environment that challenges me and my peers to do better and technologically advance the future of Erie.”

McDowell Manufacturing Background

For some background, McDowell started a Manufacturing Academy in 2019 to offer credited courses in topics such as technology, design, engineering, CNC machining, and safety. NWIRC introduced them to the concept of a student-run manufacturing enterprise, to put the information learned in their coursework to practical use where students could produce actual parts, deliver services, and add value as part of the supply chain for local manufacturers. McDowell Manufacturing was established and initial positions included Production Manager, Machinists, Business Manager, and Marketing Manager.
The program was accelerated by a PA Smart Grant awarded to