Darke County Summer Manufacturing Camp helping kids make their own connections


Drew Terhall


GREENVILLE — The Darke County Summer Manufacturing Camp came to a close on July 22 after 21 local seventh and eighth graders explored the world of manufacturing. The week long camp had campers work in teams to create a business and product or service to solve a real-world issue and learn about the different aspects of manufacturing. Later in day, campers toured local manufacturers to physically see what they had learned earlier in the day.

Camp facilitator and owner of Inside Out Coaching LLC Heather Suerdieck said the camp prompts the kids to find the answers to their questions themselves. They will have to work towards finding an answer.

“We try to grow the culture of being limitless. We’re not going to tell you how to do the challenge. We’re going to give you information and you work as a team to solve the challenge,” Suerdieck said.

The theme of the camp is Connect the Dots. Suerdieck said everyday, the campers write what interests them and creates their own “dot” with that activity. They use those dots to ask a question on how that interest is connected to manufacturing. The question could be about how the day’s tour of a local manufacturer is connected to their hobby.

The dots and the challenges of the camp help show the campers how their interests aligns within manufacturing. Suerdieck said they don’t want to put the campers into a box, they want the campers to think outside the box to see the different paths within manufacturing.

“I think there’s a missing connection or perception around manufacturing that it’s the assembly line or it’s the last option of, ‘I’m not going to work in a factory.’ It’s changing that judgement into the opportunity,” Suerdieck said.

The last day of camp features the campers giving an audience their business pitch. They present what their business is and what problem their product or service solves. It showcases all of the work the campers put into their business and shows all the lessons they learned throughout camp.

Workforce specialist and camp coordinator Tamala Marley said the campers learn skills like public speaking and teamwork through the presentation. A lot of the skills they learn are important skills to have for their future.

“One of the things they take away that practice in sharing their ideas with others. In general, we can be afraid to share our own ideas,” Marley said. “It gives them another opportunity to work as a team; that’s the future.”

It is quite a full house for the presentations. Outside of the camp coordinators and counselors, the campers’ parents are welcomed to see what their kid created during their time in camp.

A lot of community members were also invited to see what the campers put together. Marley said representatives from the local manufacturers, the camp’s planning team, some commissioners, superintendents from seven different local school districts, director of Darke County Foundations and representatives from Edison State were invited to the showcase.

The camp is supported by the community. The camp was coordinated by Darke County Economic Development and took place at the advanced manufacturing lab in Greenville High School. Marley said the school also provided them with bus transportation to the local manufacturers and transported the campers to and from the camp.

Andrea Townsend, camp coordinator and Greenville High School’s Director of Career Technology and Special Education, said the high school students also have a chance to help with the camp. The camp counselors are students who volunteer to help with the campers. One of the students volunteering helps by taking pictures during the week to capture all the great moments of camp.

Marley also said they received financial support from Darke County Foundation, Edison State and other foundations to host the camp. Even local restaurants got in on the action and provided the campers with breakfast and lunch during the camp.

“It is very much a community event. It wouldn’t be possible without the great support that we have from our community,” Marley said.

This is the third time in four years the camp has been put on. Each year, the camp has grown in numbers. Marley said this year’s camp had five campers return from last year. At this rate, the camp could grow into something bigger for the kids.

Contact Daily Advocate Sports Editor Drew Terhall at [email protected]

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