BSFB launches middle school robotics program

BSFB has completed its first LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotics program at a middle school in Bowling Green, KY, as part of its initiative to support more STEM programs in local schools.

Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake LLC (BSFB) recently celebrated the conclusion of a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotics program at South Warren Middle School in Bowling Green, KY. The pilot program, conducted as an extracurricular after-school activity, is the first of nine robotics courses Bendix will fund for Warren County Public Schools and the Bowling Green Independent School District in the next two years. Each program is specifically designed to provide students with hands-on experience in logical reasoning, construction, robotics and engineering.

A joint venture between Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC and Dana Commercial Vehicle Products, LLC, BSFB has manufactured Bendix brand name air disc and drum brakes in Bowling Green since 2007.
BSFB will contribute just shy of $32,000 to the robotics programs in the next two years – providing more than 40 Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots, course materials, programming software, and curriculum and course training, as well as four days of professional development for course instructors. By the end of 2016, an estimated 1,200 students will have participated in a BSFB-supported robotics course.

“Our employees are proud of what we do here in Bowling Green and we are dedicated to supporting the communities where we do business. We are very pleased to have the opportunity to introduce the students to the world of robotics through such an outstanding program,” says Andy Dale, Bowling Green Plant Manager. “The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 curriculum is a great way to introduce students to the possibilities of a career in engineering and manufacturing, and to begin cultivating the necessary technical skills through hands-on learning activities.”

Throughout the program, students will gain exposure to construction techniques, programming skills, problem solving and hands-on challenges, such as navigating robots through an obstacle course or programming a robot to complete five laps around a track and stop automatically.

“We are grateful to Bendix for offering this tremendous opportunity to our students,” says Jason Kupchella, Chief Academic Officer and Assistant Superintendent for Warren County Public Schools. “There is great enthusiasm from students and parents alike, and we are thrilled to offer this type of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programming in our schools.”

Part of BSFB’s ongoing commitment to supporting education and its local community, the robotics program is designed to not only benefit students, but also to strengthen the future workforce in Bowling Green.
In 2013, the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership funded the Urgent Call to Action study, which led to the finding that in manufacturing alone, South Central Kentucky will have 4,500 open positions by 2016 and 9,000 by 2020. Since that report, the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce has continued to foster partnerships like this one to ensure a robust talent pipeline that directly responds to the needs of the local economy.
“The innovative pilot project between Bendix and South Warren Middle School is yet another example of how our community comes together to support the education of our future workforce,” says Warren County Judge Executive Mike Buchanon. “I commend Bendix for reaching out to the schools to design this pilot project, and I am very much looking forward to the program’s expansion into the rest of the middle schools in the Warren County as well as Bowling Green Independent School Districts.”

By capturing interest in manufacturing skills development early on, Andy Dale and the employees in Bowling Green hope to further encourage students’ consideration of manufacturing as a career.

“Part of the challenge is a general misconception that manufacturing and skills careers are lower value,” Dale says. “In truth, however, a career in manufacturing is a great option, including for the bright, hands-on learners who don’t necessarily do well in a traditional classroom setting. We are very proud of the skilled employees at our facility and the contributions they make every day to enhance our business. That’s just one of the reasons we will continue to find the best ways to help educators better demonstrate the value of manufacturing.”

As an extension of the initial roll-out in middle schools, Bendix is also looking to support advanced programs for high school students, which it hopes to offer through the Warren County Area Technology Center in the near future.

“Even if we can get just 60 or 80 kids a year interested in learning more about pursuing manufacturing as a career, that’s a win for us,” Dale says. “We look forward to expanding our efforts in the coming years and seeing the results from these initial programs.”

In addition to BSFB’s partnership with Warren County Public Schools, the company contributes to its local community in a multitude of other ways. Contributions include Bendix employees regularly participating in the annual Junior Achievement Mini Corvette Challenge, volunteering to help educate students in local Junior Achievement programs, and serving as board members of local nonprofits.