The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Robotic Club gets a look into the business world

 

February 2, 2017

Matt Nichols gave a tour of the boat yard. Photo by Jessica Vik.

The Wahkiakum 4-H Robotics Club had a neat opportunity to visit Nichols Brother's Boat Builders on January 20. Our county commissioner, Mike Backman, set up the tour. Each of the kids were welcomed into the office of Matt Nichols (the executive vice president) with a hand shake and introduction. Matt is a 3rd generation boat builder. His grandfather started the business at this same location in Freeland, WA on Whidbey Island. When they bought the property it was an old run down saw mill and the waters were polluted. His family has done much work over the years to clean up the pollution resulting in the natural habitat flourishing once again.

Nichols Brother's built our new ferry, The Oscar B. They have about seven projects going right now and employ around 500 people. A three year apprenticeship program can be taken through their company if you are interested in becoming a boat builder. It is a very noisy job as we found out walking through the boat yard. The kids were amazed at how far up one had to look to see the top of the vessel. One student put it this way, "It gave me the feeling of awe." Matt encouraged the kids to ask lots of questions and they came up with some really great ones: "Are the crawlers ran by RC?," "What does VAC tested mean?," "What was your hardest boat to build?," and the question of the day was "Did you build the Titanic?" Matt had a gracious answer, "No, but if I did, it wouldn't have sunk!" We also learned they built the fastest boat in our Navy, "The Sea Fighter" stationed in Florida.

We stayed over one night in Everett next to the Boeing airfield. The next day the Robotics Club went to the Future of Flight Aviation Center and took a tour of Boeing. They were able to see airplanes in production. The tour guide told the kids to pay attention in math and science if they are interested in working with airplanes. We also learned that working in a hardware store is a good first job into the industry. There you put measuring and math skills into action. In the afternoon the kids got to see where some of the education takes place for plane building. Everett Community College's Advanced Manufacturing Training and Education Center (AMTEC) works with Boeing to train their employees in specific areas. Annette Floyd, who helped create this program, gave us a tour of their school. A material handling robot and a robotic welder were among the neat equipment seen. The robots are operated by a "teach pendant," a hand held computer programmer with many built-in safety features. One student, Bryson, showed the kids his computer plans for building Obi-Wan Kenobi's light saber handle and the material he will make it out of. He didn't have any trouble keeping their attention as Star Wars was popular with our group. AMTEC specializes in precision machining, composites, CAD, welding and fabrication, aviation maintenance, and mechatronics (technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering.) This hands-on college can get you a job as an electrical and instrument mechanic, control technician, repair technician, robotic technician, automation technician, or technology support specialist.

At the end of the trip, each of the kids said what they liked best and something they learned. Every one liked seeing the airplanes and boats but some specifics that stood out were: Wyatt "realizing about physics," Camille "learning how much a set of airplane wheels cost, $9 million," Julianne "having this opportunity to see things not every kid gets to see," Heidi "amazed at all the switches on the airplanes," Chuckie "I liked our Boeing tour guides mutton chops. I need to grow a pair of them," and he got a supporting cheer from his team mates!

Thank you again to our many sponsors: Cathlamet Building Materials, Ohrberg Excavation, Moore Auto and Marine, Farmers Insurance, Backman's Fish, The Video Store, and Cathlamet Dental. Your sponsorship is very appreciated. Also a special thanks to the National 4-H Council for funding this fun and educational field trip.

 

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