As part of their 2013 National Manufacturing Day event activities, rotary broach manufacturer Polygon Solutions Inc. had a plant tour, tested a new product, and sponsored a Design and Engineering Contest. Each of the students present from Lee Virtual School was eligible for the contest. The winners will receive Best Buy gift cards and are being announced on the company’s website October 4th.

Polygon has sponsored a plant tour for two consecutive years in conjunction with the official Manufacturing Day event.  Manufacturing Day has been designed to expand knowledge about and improve general public perception of manufacturing careers and manufacturing’s value to the U.S. economy. Manufacturing Day is for students, parents, educators, media, customers, suppliers and the community at large.

The core element to Manufacturing Day is the manufacturers’ open houses. Manufacturing Day promotes the open house schedule through its planned general and trade media campaign, which alerts thousands of people to the opportunity to visit manufacturers and see for themselves that manufacturing is alive and well in America and needs skilled employees. Visitors learn about real career opportunities, training and resources. In addition, educators will learn about how to engage their students through manufacturing and the truth about what manufacturing is today.

Polygon started to partner with Lee Virtual School of Lee County, Florida in 2012 as part of the Manufacturer’s Association of Florida’s (MAF) ‘Dream It! Do It!’ program. 25 high school students signed up for the event, twice as many students as compared to the previous year. Younger students and other attendees had to be turned away this year because Polygon filled the event to maximum capacity.

“Last year’s project was to help us design one of our rotary broach tools,” said Peter Bagwell, a Product Engineer at Polygon Solutions. “The tool was put to inventory and later sold to a customer. This year, we decided to find a way to reward the students a little more for their participation, and the idea of the contest was born. It was a good idea because I remember benefitting from similar projects when I was in high school.”

The demands of manufacturing require increased knowledge of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) areas and the skills of problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and team work. The growing use of technology and innovations require skilled workers and educational programs that address the demand for a highly skilled workforce. Polygon’s contest asked students to design a fastener that would work well in wet and slippery conditions.

“I thought there were some creative solutions to the questions,” said one the contest judges Richard Brown. Richard is an Operations Manager at ATG Airports, Inc. in Fort Myers, FL. Polygon Solutions and ATG Airports are members of the Southwest Regional Manufacturer’s Association (SRMA).

“You will hear about many different associations who are part of this event,” says Bagwell. “It’s a grassroots type effort by those who are in the industry and see the need to address some serious issues in our future. Betsy Allen, president of SRMA, and Doug Gyure of S4J Manufacturing, both of whom are local SRMA members help us out considerably. Another association that we belong to, the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA), sent us pens with USB sticks hidden inside. The pens were loaded with information about manufacturing and the kids were really excited about those.”

It’s no mistake that Polygon chose to partner with Lee Virtual School. Bagwell’s children have been students at the school, and he likes the format of online learning. “When a student is good at Science he can finish quickly and move on to the next subject where he may need to take more time to finish his work. The next student may need more time with Science, but excel in the second subject. The kids learn to work at their own pace and don’t get bored as often. It’s a lot like the real world of manufacturing.”

Polygon said they have already received reservations for next year’s Manufacturing Day events. They plan to continue the contest next year as well. In a post-visit survey, the majority of the students said they strongly agreed that they had learned something new about manufactured products. “In my mind,” said Bagwell “that makes them all winners.”


1st Annual Student Manufacturing / Design Contest Winners:
1st Place – Best Overall Technical Drawing and Summary
$200 Best Buy Gift Card
Haley Keller

2nd Place – Best Technical Drawing
$100 Best Buy Gift Card
Miles Crockett

3rd Place – Best Technical Summary
$100 Best Buy Gift Card
Holden Kelley

Contest Judges:
Richard Brown – ATG Airports, Inc.
Armando Gavidia – Gas Turbines International, LLC
Jim Cox – Polygon Solutions Inc.