Austintown STEM kids visit Brilex
By Billy Ludt
A group of students saw firsthand what makes a manufacturing facility tick.
Plant manager Ryan Engelhardt, and Jason Jones, plant machine shop manager, took a group of students from Austintown Middle School’s STEM program on a tour through Brilex Industries’ Crescent Street facility Thursday morning. The men give tours to groups of students from area technical schools and related programs, giving four or five alone in the past few months, they said.
“The whole point was to expose these kids to manufacturing,” Engelhardt said. “You inherently don’t know about it.”
He said the schools have pushed students toward a college career path during the last decade, which has left local manufacturing careers in the shadows. College campus visits were encouraged more than a manufacturing facility tour.
“It made sense with the kids in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]. They get to see it instead of just hear about it in the classroom,” Engelhardt said. “And hopefully that turns into an interest.”
Students interested in pursuing a degree in engineering overlooked places like Brilex.
But as computer-assisted manufacturing has become the norm in plants, engineering careers are returning to the assembly line, and manufacturing careers have remained.
Jason Freudenberg, a STEM teacher at AMS, said the program tries to take students on five to six field trips per grading period. The purpose is “to see real-world application of what we see in the classroom,” he said.
In Brilex’s case, subtractive manufacturing was demonstrated. Subtractive manufacturing is where a machine cuts into a material to create a new product.
Engelhardt held up a binder clip for comparison, and said Brilex manufactures items as small as the clip, and as large as 100 tons. That could be a gearbox dipstick for a Navy destroyer, pieces for Disney World’s next ride, or part of the Atlanta Falcon’s stadium.
“It was a good opportunity for us to see this branch of manufacturing,” eighth-grader Thomas Petridis said. “Just the sheer precision of these machines is impressive.”