New Tech students tackle Danfoss project

Originally Published February 10, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 8, 2013 at 11:44 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Students from Arkadelphia High School tour the Danfoss factory, which makes air-conditionong compressors. New Tech students from the school are collaborating with the facility to learn the process of manufacturing products.

Arkadelphia High School tour

Students from Arkadelphia High School tour the Danfoss compressor plant. (By Rusty Hubbard)
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— One of the most important objectives in American education today is making sure students learn information and skills that will be relevant in their future careers.

Members of the freshman class at Arkadelphia High School are getting that kind of experience in their project-based New Tech classes that include producing real products for a local industry.

On Wednesday and Thursday, New Tech students toured the Danfoss Scroll Technologies compressor factory in the Clark County Industrial Park south of Arkadelphia to see for themselves the manufacturing process and to hear it explained by managers and supervisors at the plant.

“We have been asked to create a new paperless manufacturing change communication (MCC) for the company,” said Budd McMillion, engineering teacher in the Arkadelphia High School New Tech program. “This is a document that is circulated through the manufacturing process whenever there is a change in the process.”

The teacher, along with William Tucker, who oversees plant operations at the Danfoss compressor-making facility, pointed out how the MCCs are used as the tours traveled along the tooling and assembly lines.

“Product testing and measurements might show a problem in the process. The engineers find a solution and make a change at a work station,” Tucker said, showing an orange change form to the students. “This way everybody knows what is going on, and the changes can be made and checked.”

The critical part of the

compressors is made using large machining units called computer numerical-controlled work stations. These units are milled, trimmed and drilled on a cast-metal piece until it is worked to within precise dimensions for efficient operations.

“Anything out of tolerance limits causes problems in its operations, and that wastes materials and kills profits,” said Gregg Diehl, who works in the manufacturing process.

McMillion said the new change document is being designed by the students in class so it can be electronically sent along the entire manufacturing process.

“We are using a free Microsoft program, and the students are learning to use it to design the new document,” he said. “We will be using colors to show its importance, like red or orange, but the kids will also be making it easy to read.”

The teacher said the students, working in teams, are studying the company’s style sheets.

“This will be a Danfoss document. We want it to look like a Danfoss document, not just something general,” McMillion said.

Each student team will design and create an electronic document that will be presented to the company by the students.

“The team will get to make a pitch for 90 seconds to company officials,” McMillion said. “They will select one document from the teams, and it will be used in the plant. This will be a real-world product helping a local company with a real-world part of their manufacturing process.”

That, said Arkadelphia High School Assistant Principal Cheryl Merk, who is also director of the school’s New Tech program, is a big accomplishment for a team of ninth-graders and something they can put on a resume when they look for a job after high school or college.

“Students want to learn things that are relevant to their lives,” she said. “We are teaching critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration with others. These are skills that are vital to success in life after high school.”

Throughout the tour, teachers and Danfoss personnel urged the students to ask questions. Merk said that is a vital part of the learning process.

“When a student is asking a question, that is when learning is taking place,” Merk said.

During the tour, Danfoss managers showed the students a plastic model of a new piece that will be a part of a new product ordered by a Danfoss customer. It was a design the class had made, at the request of the company, that was

designed in 3-D.

“This comes from what we learned in designing a bar of soap in one of our first projects a few months ago,” McMillion told the students.

The piece, which will be manufactured in steel by the company, holds electrical cables to the new product and creates a way to ground the product.

The relationship between Danfoss and the New Tech students originated because of a friendship between Dave Fenocchi, director of quality for Danfoss, and Arkadelphia School Board member Billy Groom.

“We used to work together, and I told him we were looking for ways to reconnect with the community, and we talked about internships,” Fenocchi said. “At that point, I turned it over to Elva Arista.”

Arista, human resources business partner for the Danfoss plant, said she talked with the school system about internships offering job training at Danfoss, and working to promote the New Tech education program.

“Working with the schools, we found a project the students could do in collaboration with us that we could actually use and give them real-world experience,” she said.

Arkadelphia High School is one of only 10 schools in the state to offer the new state-initiated New Tech programs.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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