Students explore future STEM career opportunities

BY GREG BARLOW NEWS CORRESPONDENT

DOUGLAS — On Thursday, Oct. 15, 18 eighth grade Douglas Middle School students paid a visit to AGS headquarters in Sutton to explore possible future Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career opportunities.

From 10-11:30 a.m., the students learned that a process seeming as simple as manufacturing boxes consists of much more than just hammers and nails.

The students gazed in amazement at the size of the advanced manufacturing machines and were surprised to discover the various different departments involved in producing customized and standard packaging.

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DMS students mull STEM options during field trip

“I was surprised by this company and tour purely on the fact that people would generally think that they just make boxes,” said one of the Douglas Middle School students. “It was so much more. Everyone was working together to make more, and they worked hard to make something specific for their customers, which was cool to see.”

The field trip idea started when Douglas Middle School eighth grade science teacher Kelly Grazeson Payne noticed the passion and interests her students were showing towards STEM-related jobs.

While attending the annual STEM Kid’s Conference run by the Blackstone Valley Education Foundation (BVEF) at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Grafton, her students were intrigued by the various cooperative STEM workshops.

“I think it’s important for middle school students to see what is out here for jobs opportunities,” said Grazeson Payne. “It was a good way to get them outside the classroom to show them the best STEM jobs offered close by or internationally through a global company.”

The field trip was funded and coordinated by the BVEF as part of Manufacturing Day, which commemorates the Industrial Revolution in the Valley.

The BVEF has offered middle schools in the area the opportunity to allow their students to discover various avenues of STEM-related careers from first-hand perspective during the month of October.

Nearly 200 students and their teachers from 11 local school districts attended field trips sponsored by a partnership between the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce, the National Park Service, Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and BVEF.

Through observing these large local advanced manufacturers on-site, a student can better understand STEM jobs available here in the Blackstone Valley.

A middle school student may not consider all the science and math that is applied when constructing efficient specialized packaging.

During the on-site adventures, the students observed the specific duties a large global manufacturer employee is responsible for on a daily basis. Additionally, students had the opportunity to understand what kinds of skills and education is required to be an employee at a company like AGS .

AGS is one of four local businesses working with the BVEF during this phase of field trips to offer tours and presentations to young students who may be interested in pursuing engineering, manufacturing, or other similar occupation.

AGS is a grassroots company, which was started in a garage in Sutton in 1988. It has now expanded to 400,000 square feet at its headquarters located at 223 Worcester-Providence Turnpike in Sutton and has other locations overseas.

The company produces high-quality packaging services, consisting of wooden crates, foam, and cardboard boxes. An example of a renowned company they work with is Yankee Candle.

On Thursday, 20 employees presented their role at AGS to the students. The employees described their educational roots and paths they took to get to where they are now.

Employees gave the students a tour of the facility in groups of six students per two workers. In addition to describing their jobs and all the departments, they discussed how rules and regulations such as restraining from chewing gum while working play a vital part in practicing safety.

Students observed how skills such as teamwork are transferable to the working environment. The field trip concluded with the students enjoying pizza with employees in the lunch room, where the employees shared stories on how they got to where they are today.

On Saturday, Nov. 7, Grazeson Payne and her colleague will be presenting a workshop at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Grafton for the STEM Kid’s Conference this year. Eleven seventh and eighth graders from Douglas will be attending, in addition to other students from various school districts.