High school class has students designing a business

Photos by Kayla Renie/The Herald
Northeast Dubois High School junior Cole Tretter examines a plaque he made using a laser engraver for the swim team members who broke school records during an advanced manufacturing class at Dubois Middle School on Thursday. As a result of the skills learned during class, the students formed Jeep Engineering & Manufacturing, a business where the students design, create, manufacture and package products for customers. 


DUBOIS — A handful of Northeast Dubois High School engineering students are getting a look at how engineering and business go hand in hand.

This year, engineering teacher Audrey Case and a group of six students — Carter Beckman, Elaina Epple, Adelle Fravell, Tucker Neukam, Ben Schepers and Cole Tretter — launched Jeep Engineering and Manufacturing (JEM). The class combines engineering skills like operating laser engravers and CNC routers with business skills, such as marketing, and building business plans into one class. The result is a student-run design and engraving business that the group hopes will be self-sustaining in a few years.

So far, the class has completed several projects, including leather and wood Christmas ornaments, engraved leather journals for a conference, plaques for the National Guard and this year’s girls basketball awards.

It’s been a year filled with trial and error with something new springing up everyday — the belt on the engraver broke earlier this week, for example — but the students work through them all and get to a professional final product.

“They’re overcomers,” Case said of the students. “And it’s real world experience for them.”

The group is working on plaques for the swim team’s record board. With the laser engraver at the high school out of commission while they await a new belt, the class has had to get creative with getting the work done. On Thursday, Fravell and Tretter headed down the road to Dubois Middle School to use the engraver there. That, of course, came with its own challenges. For half an hour, the pair could not get the computer with the design for the awards to communicate with the engraver.

The minor setback was part of everyday life for JEM.

“A lot of the projects have their own little challenges,” Fravell said.

Northeast Dubois High School junior Adelle Fravell sets up the laser engraver as she prepares to make plaques for the swim team members who broke school records during an advanced manufacturing class at Dubois Middle School on Thursday.

As the guinea pigs for the class, it’s up to Fravell and her classmates to work out the kinks. The freedom that comes with that is Fravell’s favorite part of the class, though she said it can also be a challenge, especially when it comes to learning new equipment, like the CNC router, or using all the functions on the engraver.

“It’s just trial and error,” Tretter said. ‘It doesn’t take long to learn to use [the equipment]. Then you just try and try.”

Tretter and Fravell both took Case’s principles of engineering class as sophomores. Now that they’re juniors, JEM seemed like the next logical step. The allure of being a founding member of JEM also played a part in their decisions to take the course. Fravell, in fact, passed on enrolling in the automation and robotics academy at Vincennes University Jasper so she could be a founder of JEM instead.

“I wanted to be part of something new,” Fravell said.

She also plans to pursue a career in the design side of manufacturing, so JEM seemed like the better option.

So far, she has not been disappointed.

Case plans to keep the class going for years to come, and she’s hoping to leverage it to recruit more students to the engineering department, especially more creative students who may be able to come up with project ideas and designs.

“The engineer may be able to build it,” Case said, “but they may not be able to come up with the concept.”

Although the students spent the beginning of the year designing a logo and some marketing materials, so far, they haven’t had to do much marketing. Case’s father had an engraving business until recently, so he passes clients along to the class. Others hear about JEM and get in touch — you can email them at jem@nedubois.k12.in.us — and there are plenty of projects around Northeast Dubois to keep them busy.

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