A basic egg-drop activity becomes a comprehensive experience around lean packaging when students get points, not just for the safe transport of an egg, but also for keeping the packaging’s weight low, making it reusable, and making it look good so it has additional value as a marketing tool. This was the first hands-on activity for students attending the Logistics Engineering Technology: Early College Experience at Columbus State Community College last June. From here, students spent three days getting to know the campus and learning about cutting edge technologies that are shaping occupations in the logistics field.

In its second year, the experiential summer program is part of a project to build an academic pathway for Logistics Engineering Technicians funded by a National Science Foundation grant under the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program. The project addresses skills and knowledge gaps found in emerging occupations in the logistics field where automation and sophisticated computerized systems are becoming more prevalent.

Through the project, Columbus State launched a new AAS degree in Logistics Engineering and Technology and implemented a multi-disciplinary pre-college initiative involving students, parents, advisors, guidance counselors, and educators.

“We learned that students are interested in attending the summer program because it’s an engineering and STEM focused program, not necessarily because they’re excited about logistics,” said Tara Sheffer, Grant Coordinator at Columbus State. “Typically, about thirty percent know what logistics is or has a parent working in logistics. But, a good number are coming because it says engineering and it says STEM in the program description. That’s where we see this degree taking off. Students are looking for a way to be involved in engineering.”

Over the course of the program, students were surveyed about their feelings and perceptions of logistics. Generally, their impressions and attitudes became more positive as the camp progressed. When asked what aspect of the camp had the largest impact on their attitude toward LET as a major or a career, one student wrote that the camp, “made me appreciate all the different areas of LET. I really enjoyed hearing from the people in the field.”

According to Sheffer, the people who are a good fit for the Logistics, Engineering and Technology (LET) program include those who are systems-level thinkers and problem solvers. These are the type of people who would take responsibility for a warehouse’s operations in the event a conveyor belt goes down. They would develop the backup plan and take into account the warehouse’s decreased capacity until the problem was fixed. They are also good communicators.

“That’s the whole point of the degree; to develop graduates who can communicate with people on the engineering and maintenance side as well as on the IT and networking side. They focus on supply chain and operations in their day to day and on process improvement,” said Sheffer.

Other activities at the summer program included tours of automated distribution facilities, a lab where they interacted with AC/DC circuit kits and motor controls. These activities introduce some of the engineering systems that would support a warehouse. They also had a simulation lab that exposed them to some of the IT components and a 3D printing workshop.

The summer program also included a track for parents to provide information to the parents of the attendees. In it, parents learned about what the students were doing with some background on the activities. Additionally, information about careers was shared. Sheffer pointed out that parents might not think that a two-year college is the right starting place for their student. But, information about average salaries for graduates can be very enlightening. Additionally, opportunities for students to continue their education and transfer to a four-year program were also discussed. Parents were interested to learn that there are opportunities for advancement and mobility in this field. In logistics, students can often work while going to school, getting a jump start on moving up the career pathway even before acquiring a four-year degree.

Dates for 2018 Summer Institutes at Columbus State Community College

July 18-20, 2018
Logistics Engineering Technology: Early College Experience

June 19-22, 2018
STEM Educator’s Summer Institute

Future additions to the pre-college initiative will be to look at how Columbus State might offer LET curriculum at high schools. This way, if a high school had a qualified faculty member, they could teach the college course at the school and the students could earn college credit.

This year’s program had a more diverse group of students than the first year due to changes in how the camp was promoted. Previously, the program had been promoted at high schools with existing logistics programs. In 2017, the promotion targeted students throughout Central Ohio with an interest in Engineering. Additionally, the application criteria were more stringent, requiring the addition of a teacher recommendation and a copy of the student’s high school transcript. Female student participation increased from 20% to 55% in the second year. Racial and ethnic diversity also increased.

Another key component of reaching students about emerging careers is getting the message out to career counselors at high schools. However, it can be challenging to capture the attention and time of these people, who have a lot of things vying for their attention, according to Sheffer. In February, Columbus State held an event called “Connecting Your Students to High-Demand Careers,” for counselors and educators. Respectful of attendees’ time, the event was kept to an hour and a half. First, a speaker from the Columbus Chamber of Commerce gave an economic overview of the area’s key industries. This was followed by short presentations from faculty on the career path and need for Logistics, Engineering, and Technology and Cyber Security in modern manufacturing.

For more information about the summer program, contact Tara Sheffer at tsheffer@cscc.edu.