No ‘Rust Belt’ At STEM Camp

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Brooklyn Butler, a sixth-grader at Seaborn Elementary School in Mineral Ridge, navigates a pen-shaped soldering iron as she delicately removes a capacitor from a small circuit board.

It’s not a task normally assigned to a middle school student.  However, Butler is well ahead of others her age.

“I’m already familiar with some of it,” she said.  “My dad taught me.” 

Butler was among seven students participating June 28 in the first day of Summer Manufacturing Camp at the Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology. The weeklong camp introduces young people to how science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM – education plays a role in manufacturing.

Alivia Franklin, Emma George and Mike Mellott.

Their project for the week was to build a digital clock, said Ralf Urbach, director of education at Oh Wow! “They’re learning about microelectronics. Today, they’re using a soldering iron to detach some of the capacitors, resistors and transistors.”

Representatives from Youngstown State University and companies such as Ultium Cells visited the camp throughout the week to speak with the students, Urbach said.

“These young ladies over a five-day period will learn all of the ins and outs of what microelectronics will and can be, the jobs they can have or what may interest them moving forward.”

Introducing STEM education to young people is vital to the manufacturing health of the country, said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who paid a visit to Oh Wow to talk with the students.

Brown said he is no fan of the term “Rust Belt” to describe postindustrial communities such as the Mahoning Valley.

“I’m offended by it,” he said.

Ralf Urbach helps a student with soldering. “They’re learning about microelectronics,” he says.

Instead, Brown prefers emphasizing strides the region has made through advanced manufacturing and educational programs tied to STEM disciplines.  

After his stop at Oh Wow, he toured America Makes and the Youngstown Business Incubator’s Tech Block Building No. 5, both of which are dedicated to advancing additive manufacturing.

“It so flies in the face of the misnomer of the ‘Rust Belt,’” Brown said. “There’s nothing that would suggest that around here at all.”

Programs such as the Summer Manufacturing Camp – an effort spearheaded by Oh Wow, the YWCA and corporate partners – inspire young people to get involved in manufacturing, he said. In 2013, Youngstown was the first Ohio city to develop these summer camps. The program has since become a model for the rest of the state.  

“We’ve now had more than 100 of these across the state, Youngstown’s the first,” he said.  

“We’re going to continue to build, build, build.”

Pictured at top: On the first day of the Summer Manufacturing Camp, June 28, students were introduced to their project.