LUMBERTON — Local manufacturers and businesses shared a wealth of knowledge with students on Wednesday during Robeson Community College’s inaugural Made in Robeson event.
“This was a home run,” RCC President Melissa Singler said.
The event showcased manufacturing companies in the county and offered students the opportunity to ask questions and learn about those companies.
“The students were able to actually explore certain fields,” Singler said. “Today it was welding, HVAC and advanced manufacturing.”
Tracy Santoro, Mueller Steam Specialty Co. Engineering manager, demonstrated the St. Pauls-based company’s rainwater harvesting systems to students at an informational booth. And they had a lot of questions.
“I’m getting a lot more questions from girls,” she said with a smile.
She would like to see more women in the engineering industry and hopes the event resonated with students, Santoro said.
The stainless-steel sink manufacturer Elkay Southern Corporation also made an appearance at the event.
“Elkay values professional and career development,” said Maurice Townsend, focused factory manager.
Townsend said the company offers students entering the workforce after high school room to grow, with on-the-job mentors and leadership positions available to people with a high school diploma. Most of the job is learned in the field.
“You can’t go to school for sink-making,” he said with a laugh.
R.J. Sutton, a seventh grader at St. Pauls Middle School, admired a duck made of tobacco leaves displayed in an exhibit by the Robeson County History Museum.
“I like it,” he said.
Sutton said he learned a lot from the Made in Robeson Event and gave it his stamp of approval.
The museum brought engaging exhibits, such as a preserved tobacco bundle from the Lumbee Tribe and size 22 Chuck Taylor Converse shoes, and each came with a story.
History Museum President Faye Middleton told students the history of the Chuck Taylor shoe that bears the signatures of workers in the former Converse factory in Lumberton. Middleton said the shoe was a replica made from the model specially designed for professional NBA player Wayman Tisdale. The shoe was presented to former U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre for his support of American-made footwear. Converse shut down manufacturing plants in the United States in 2001 and relocated production to Asia.
Museum volunteer Johnny Walters Floyd showed students tools used in turpentine distilleries.
Floyd explained that turpentine, made from tree resin, was used to preserve the wood used to build ships and ropes, and that the industry was popular in the area in the 1800s. He also said his ancestors worked in the distilleries.
Floyd said he hoped to educate students about what it took to make turpentine.
“They don’t realize how hard it was,” he said.
Rob Gable sat making tiny pieces of pottery with his wife, Katherine, by his side as students pointed and complimented his handiwork.
His goal was to introduce the craft to students and stimulate their interest in pottery, Gable said.
“North Carolina has a rich tradition of making pottery,” he said.
Gable teaches pottery classes at RCC on Tuesday evenings and Thursday mornings.
Singler , who became RCC’s president on Nov. 1, said she looks forward to hosting the event again next year.
“We value the relationship with Robeson County pubic schools,” she said. “We’re also proud to partner with charter schools.”
Singler said the students enjoyed the robotics portion of Wednesday’s event the most.
Students from Prospect, Red Springs, Fairmont, Orrum, Parkton, St. Pauls, Pembroke, Littlefield and Townsend middle schools; South Robeson Intermediate School; Southeastern Academy, Lumberton Junior High School and Magnolia Elementary School attended the event.
Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]