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The Art of Engineering and Manufacturing With GO CAPS

(Photo: Randy Stewart)

The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce GO CAPS program hosts area high school juniors and seniors on-site at various local businesses, including the eFactory and the classroom facility at Cox Health. SRC—Springfield ReManufacturing Corporation—has provided GO CAPS with a sizeable office suite, suitable for instruction space, at their offices on East Division Street.  Here’s where students interested in engineering and manufacturing attend a daily two-and-a-half-hour session, either morning or afternoon, throughout the school year.

GO CAPS instructor Darrin Earhart would rather not call it a “classroom, because this is their opportunity to get away from the school, get away from the classroom, and experience something different. Our objective here is to emulate the business environment.”  He points out the 17 or so students working in the background at 4-person desks.  “They all have devices—they’re doing business research on business partners they might want to job-shadow or do a project with.” About the “classroom” designation for the GO CAPS space at SRC, Darrin admits “I gravitate—sometimes I call it a ‘classroom’ because that’s an easy word to use.  But most of the time I consider it our workspace.”

Darrin introduced me to two students working on what he calls a “Capstone project.” “It’s a ‘passion’ project, if you will.  It’s an engineering or architecture or manufacturing project that these guys essentially develop on their own, and work and complete. And it’ll include proposals and presentations and things of that sort.”

I was looking for a “creative-arts” sort of angle for today’s Sense of Community features, and areas like engineering and manufacturing might seem remote from such a concept. No so, says Darrin Earhart, who notes his two students “were talking about doing some 3D printing of an urban landscape—sort of urban architecture, city-planning kind of stuff. I thought it was a really interesting design proposal.  And right now I think you guys are just in the brainstorming process.” The students nod in assent. “But it certainly has that ‘design’ element, and that architecture and kind of ‘artistic’ element.  There’s certainly a huge creative element to what a lot of engineering designers do in developing products. And even in the manufacturing environment there’s a lot of creativity involved in how a manufacturing operation is laid out, how it flows. I think we can’t underestimate that thought process that is common to both the art world and the engineering world, as well as architecture.” “It’s all about creativity,” I add, and Darrin agrees. “Absolutely it is.  It’s about creativity, and being able to brainstorm ideas and new thought processes and new products. And those are common elements between the art world and the engineering world.”

The students Darrin mentioned are Sam Losey and Brendan Melton, both seniors at Kickapoo High School.  Sam was involved in GO CAPS’s inaugural year last year; this is Brendan’s first year in the program. Sam’s primary interest is in aerospace and astronautical engineering.  He says, “I’ve recently been looking at the differences between an ‘engineer’ and a ‘designer,’ because I think for me and probably most kids, I’m more interested in the creative aspect. I want to see my design fly.  I don’t really want to work on, you know, just another engine: I want it to be my engine, or my plane. I would say I’ve learn a lot of professional skills (in GO CAPS)—how to deal with people in a business setting—because now I’m able to compose emails. I mean, some stuff they do teach you in school like that. But really, we get to put it into practice here.”

Brendan’s interests lie in mechanical and civil engineering, a more nuts-and-bolts approach.  But he says he came to appreciate the more artistic or creative side of the business after visiting Central States Industrial Equipment, or CSI. “Some of the stuff I saw when we were at CSI was that a lot of their employees were working with AutoCAD and (Autodesk) Inventor, and things like that. And those are some of my favorite programs to work with, and I’d really like to do something like that.  I’d like to take a drafting class.  I haven’t really been exposed to any of that in my high school.  I’d really like to be a designer—but I’d also like to be on a floor somewhere building all these things.”

Actually, Brendan’s desire for both parts of the industrial world, the creative and the manufacturing—isn’t at all unrealistic, says GO CAPS instructor Darrin Earhart. “I think those two things dovetail really well. If you don’t understand how things are manufactured and processed, it’s difficult to create an appropriate design.  Everything around us has to be designed by someone.  If you’re going to do 3D modeling and things of that sort, a really critical element of that is being able to visualize something in three dimensions and then create it out of—space. And it’s very much like the skill that an artist or a musician has.”

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning Arts News. Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's Ozzie Award in 2006.