Event puts innovation, technology on display

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper High School seniors Calvin Gehlhausen, left, Cole Erny and Nick Hale checked out an engine transmission remanufactured by Jasper Engines & Transmissions during the National Manufacturing Day event at Vincennes University Jasper Campus on Thursday. The particular kind of transmission is used in NASCAR race cars.

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Community members and local students watched in awe Thursday evening as a small, unmanned aerial vehicle circled nearby cornfields on its own and then skidded lightly to a stop in a clearing. The 3-pound plane used its onboard sensor to determine its location and make its flight without crashing.

The demonstration, and many others, were part of a nationwide event that was hosted at Vincennes University Jasper Campus’ Center for Technology, Innovation and Manufacturing. The demonstrations, held at locations throughout the state and country in early October each year, aim to address misconceptions about manufacturing.

VUJC Dean Alan Johnson said the event helped bring current and future industry leaders into the same location for networking and discussion.

“This has just been a great day. We’re having a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m thrilled with the level of participation. It raises our profile as in institution that can provide leadership in the community for industry, for agriculture, for community development, because we’re able to reach out to people like this and bring people together from multiple communities and multiple companies to see what’s possible.”

The aerial vehicle was demonstrated by PrecisionHawk of Noblesville, and other product displays were provided by companies including Versteel, Kimball International, Jasper Group, OFS Brands and Jasper Rubber. A representative from JBH Productions of Chicago was present to show off a laser engraving machine that center Director Ray Niehaus plans to bring to the campus for student use in woodworking.

Each company display was run by groups of high school students who have spent the past few weeks touring and learning about the manufacturing processes of specific companies.

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Brandon Eickhoff of Noblesville held up an unmanned aircraft used for scanning agricultural landscapes for things like discovering drainage problems and seeking out weeds during the National Manufacturing Day event at Vincennes University Jasper Campus on Thursday.

Five Jasper High School seniors who are involved in the Project Lead the Way program and Jasper Motorsports learned about different aspects of Jasper Engines & Transmissions. They presented information at a display of a sports car that was fitted with a locally made engine.

“What Jasper (Engines) does is they remanufacture parts that they buy,” Jasper senior Erich Hopf explained. “They would take a motor that’s broken and run it through their plant, and once it comes out, it’s essentially a brand-new, revitalized motor.”

His classmate Chris Wigand said he learned many new things about the company that he hadn’t known before.

“We actually took a tour of the plant. We learned how they take (an engine) apart and how they figure out what’s wrong with motors,” he said.

Forest Park High School seniors Jason Brier and Justin Sitzman manned the MasterBrand Cabinets booth in the center’s atrium. Both students had toured various company departments and then built their own display, requesting wall and floor cabinets and backdrops to make the presentation more visually appealing.

“I got to go down on the (plant) floor and kind of watch what was going on there, and then I went up to the offices and checked out what they were doing as far as product design. We got two sides of it,” Brier said of his two weeks working with company representatives. “I just found out how a company that has so many jobs in this county could be so efficient and become one of the world’s main manufacturers of cabinets.”

Ian Ahrens, a warehouse employee from RideTech in Jasper, brought a sample roll cage that the company manufactured to be a simple, do-it-yourself project for anyone with a car. He said that as a member of local industry, it was important for him to show off RideTech’s offerings to the community members who may not have heard of them.

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper High School senior Tyler Mehringer pointed out parts of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that were made by Jasper Rubber to his parents, Ed and Kristi, during the National Manufacturing Day event at Vincennes University Jasper Campus on Thursday.

“Nobody has any idea that there’s so much that’s being produced right here in Jasper,” he said. “That’s what ultimately brings me out here and I think that’s why a lot of the companies are here. I think that’s really cool.”

VUJC will remain a host site for National Manufacturing Day events in the future, Johnson said. He added that he hopes to begin cycling displays from local businesses through the center’s atrium throughout the year to keep community awareness up.

“I’m just really pleased with the outcome,” he said of the event. Johnson estimated that about 75 exhibitors and 100 additional visitors visited the event throughout its five-hour run.

Contact Claire Moorman at cmoorman@dcherald.com.

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