OLEAN — Local students experienced walking past elephants and scuba diving Friday — without having to leave Olean.
Salamanca High School students toured 360RIZE as part of National Manufacturing Day and checked out the Olean 360-degree video company’s virtual reality equipment. The VR footage of elephants, a coral reef, Mexican parade and skier’s view while going down a mountain, were all captured by 360RIZE’s patented camera assemblies.
“A lot of (the students) when they first came here are like, ‘What is this all about?’” said 360RIZE CEO and founder Michael Kintner, who started the company from his Queen Street garage in 2012. “Then when you show them the story and the history of how you can be from a small town area and graduate and create something that can be seen worldwide, it inspires young generations like this.”
Kintner and a slew of other manufacturers tried to inspire high school students to enter the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields, as well as show them STEM opportunities available to them in the local area. Dream It Do It Western New York’s annual Manufacturing Day event brought together more than 700 high school students to tour 18 area companies like Dresser-Rand and Cutco, as well as educational facilities at Jamestown Community College’s Cattaraugus County Campus and St. Bonaventure University.
“The students were amazing. They were so inquisitive, asking questions, they were interested, they were making connections with what they were doing in the classroom,” said DIDI-WNY Project Coordinator Evelyn Sabina, adding that manufacturers not only gave students tours of their facilities, but also created hands-on activities for them.
JCC allowed students to tour its Manufacturing Technology Institute, which opened last fall and houses credit and noncredit offerings for associate degrees and professional certifications. In total, about 140 students from six school districts, including those from Olean High School, tested out the facility’s array of 3D printers, computer numerical control machines and welding torches.
Xavier Smith, a machinist with OSM Corp., showed students how to use the various CNC machines in the MTI building, and gave them some advice for pursuing a career in manufacturing.
“The thought that you can’t go to school for a two-year degree or certificate and make a lot of money is false,” said Smith, 22, an Alfred State College graduate.
Alan Barber, a pre-engineering teacher at Belmont Career and Technical Education Center, and his students toured Pierce Steel Fabricators, Mazza Mechanical Services and the MTI building. He said the tours will help him better prepare students for their post-graduation plans, and opened the eyes of his students to the different career opportunities available to them.
“There’s a lot more going on than you think,” he said. “You drive by these buildings in town and you see a forklift driving around, but you don’t realize all the different kinds of work they’re doing inside and how specialized it is.”
Those participating in Manufacturing Day also seemed impressed with the global reach of some local manufacturers.
360Rize’s cameras captured 360-degree footage for a TIME Magazine exclusive shoot with diver Fabien Cousteau — grandson of famed diver Jacques Cousteau — and for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. The company also entered the Guinness Book of World Records after a Sherpa ascended Mount Everest in 2013 and used its camera mounts to film the first-ever 360-degree video at the 29,029-foot summit.
“I’m blown away. I’m completely in awe of this technology and that it’s here,” said Kim Dry, a Salamanca High School computer and business teacher. “I’m watching these (students) watch it and they’re extremely impressed, too. Sometimes they let their cool guard down and all the sudden they’re like, ‘Wow.’”
Mary Haley, a Salamanca High School junior, was one of the students that got to check out the VR technology Friday in 360RIZE’s West State Street headquarters, which opened last fall.
“It was really cool to see places around the world,” said Haley, who with another student asked Kintner additional questions about 360RIZE after the main presentation. “I think it’s really cool that he’s from the local area and he does work over the world with a lot of different companies.”
Dry called the field trip “huge” for students.
“In order for our kids to be successful they have to have a foot into this type of technology, and what’s more important than it ever was before is the partnership between the schools and the businesses,” she said.
Kintner said he was glad to share what his company is trying to accomplish in the area with students.
“It’s all about promoting education for kids and showing them they don’t have to live in the city to get into some really cool technology,” he said.
(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)