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Youths learn to make “Thingamajigs” at CVTC

EAU CLAIRE, WI – Brennen Zais was making his own fireworks show. The sparks flew as the Elk Mound High School freshman took a grinder to a metal plate that was to become part of a charcoal starter. It would be the third project Zais took on during the five-day Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Camp at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) July 25-29.

Zais said the camp was fun and the grinding was too, “I was trying hard to make it shiny,” he said.

At the camp, a dozen area youth ages 13-18 learned entrepreneurial skills and gained exposure to the world of manufacturing.

“We took an idea and turned it into reality through automated fabrication equipment,” said Walter Quaschnick, director of the camp and CVTC’s Welding programs.

Camp instructors worked with students to design three products: a cell phone holder, a pencil holder and a charcoal starter, using a computer-assisted design program called Solidworks. They used a plasma cutter to cut the metal, a brake press to bend it, and a robotic welder to weld pieces together. The grinding was an unanticipated extra step at times.

But they also learned about business and entrepreneurship with lessons on how to develop and describe an idea, determine pricing, and create a marketing plan.

“The idea is to get young kids introduced to manufacturing and learn how manufacturing is critical to entrepreneurship,” Quaschnick said.

Boyceville High School freshman Cade Klefstad said he was having fun, and learning lot, too.

“I heard about it in the newspaper and I thought it would be fun, and something to think about going into the future,” Klefstad said. He is planning a career in a technical field and will start with some agriculture classes in high school, prerequisites for welding and other technical education classes. “I want to be an engineer, either architectural or structural,” he said.

Klefstad noted that learning to use the Solidworks program gave him a taste of what it might be like to work in the field. “And the most fun was watching the plasma cutter and running the robotic welder.”

“They’re really enjoying it,” Quaschnick said of the attendees. “They didn’t like the computer work as much. They wanted to get out there and cut and grind.”

Zane Cullinan from Fall Creek, a seventh grader at Eau Claire Regis, said the camp fed his interest in exploring how things work.

“I like technology,” he said. “I take apart computers and stuff and thought it would be fun to see what went into making things. I’m kind of interested in the inventing side of things.”

Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.