The Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow (LIFT) to support the On Track initiative by increasing participation and improving access to education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through a program that generates interest in careers in the advanced and lightweight metals manufacturing industry through practical application.
After only a year in operation, On Track has reached more than 500 students, thanks to partners including Western Kentucky University, Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College, Bowling Green Independent School District, Warren County Public Schools and the Warren County Area Technology Center.
During the initiative's second year, SKYCTC and Warren County ATC will be given two vehicles for student teams at each school to compete in designing and rebuilding the cars during the 2016-17 school year. The 2017 competition will focus on increasing performance through lightweighting and other advanced techniques. Similarly, the students will be introduced to careers in advanced and lightweight metals manufacturing, both high demand business sectors in South Central Kentucky.
On Track will follow each team's progress and will document each phase through photos and videos shared on social media. At the end of the rebuild, the cars will be unveiled as they compete in the Grand Champion category at the 2017 Holley LS Fest in Bowling Green.
During the 2015-16 school year, teams competed with two second generation Chevrolet Camaros purchased from Holley Performance Products. Each team designed and rebuilt the cars based on its strategy for the Grand Champion competition. This year, the cars will be unveiled Aug. 26 at the NCM Motorsports Track as they set out on a day of testing in preparation for the competition.
"The On Track initiative is designed to expose students to the STEM concepts that drive performance through project based learning as well as career pathways in advanced manufacturing," said Ron Bunch, Chamber president and CEO. "By working on these cars and engaging in this competition between the schools, students are gaining valuable experience and developing skills that are in high demand in the South Central Kentucky region. Through this initiative, we are working to grow the talent pipeline with highly skilled employees to meet the regional business demand, and thanks to the partnership with LIFT, we will now be able to expand the program and reach exponentially more students than we did in the first year. We are very excited to have an organization like LIFT on board to help us promote and grow the initiative on a national scale."
Students enrolled in automotive, welding, machine tool and collision repair will work to directly rebuild the cars, while students in physics, biology, engineering, business and math will contribute to the design, business and marketing aspects of the project. Mentors from sponsoring companies will work with teams to bring private sector knowledge and experience to the projects.
In addition to SKYCTC and Warren ATC students working on the cars, collateral on technical careers and lightweighting will be developed to provide to elementary-, middle- and high-school, along with post-secondary students and current workers.
In total, at least 500 students through SKYCTC, Warren ATC and the Bowling Green and Warren County schools will engage in the program during the 2016-17 school year.
"We are always excited when opportunities arise to create more educational access for individuals in the community and to highlight our achievements on a national level," said Chris Cumens, vice president of finance and administration at SKYCTC. "The On Track initiative accomplishes both. We have a unique opportunity to help promote the growing demand for careers related to high performance through lightweight metal manufacturing while helping others understand the incredible automotive performance infrastructure that Bowling Green supports. It's easy to envision this growing into a very impactful program for our community and becoming a national model.'"
"This is an outstanding opportunity for students in the automotive and manufacturing career pathways to be introduced to the real life application of academic standards in the STEM field," said Eric Keeling, Warren County ATC principal. "This partnership has created unimaginable opportunities for our students. The initiative incorporates the tenets of a high quality education and sets the bar for STEM and CTE programs in Kentucky while challenging programs on the national level."
"Funding from LIFT for the upcoming school year will support a focus on new technology, expanding engagement by involving more students and introducing the use of lightweight metals and materials in the vehicles," said Emily DeRocco, LIFT director of education and workforce development. "This will allow the students to become more familiar with the equipment used in advanced manufacturing and learn more about the importance of lightweighting, particularly in automobiles."
About the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce:
Incorporated in 1935, the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce is a 5-Star Accredited Chamber by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and was named the 2009 Chamber of the Year by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. As the fourth largest chamber in Kentucky, the Chamber serves as a premier business advocate for its more than 1,200 partners and is the driving force for economic development in South Central Kentucky. Its primary goals are to promote growth and success in the business community, reaching its small business partners and those in large industries alike. With leadership programs, governmental relations projects, educational initiatives and involvement opportunities, the Chamber aims to support the community and its neighbors in order to enhance the business climate and continue to grow the region.
LIFT is a Detroit-based, public-private partnership committed to the development and deployment of advanced lightweight metal manufacturing technologies, and implementing education and training initiatives to better prepare the workforce today and in the future. LIFT is one of the founding institutes in the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), and is funded in part by the Department of Defense with management through the Office of Naval Research. Visit http://lift.technology/ to learn more.