On Wednesday, five Grade 9 students participated in National Manufacturing Day (MFG) with their teacher Gabe Grant. The students joined peers from three other area high schools and spent the day at Global Foundries in Essex (former IBM facility). Global Foundries manufactures integrated circuits in high volume.

The students were exposed to a variety of experiences while attending MFG. The day began with a tour of the Fab. A Fab is the what the microelectronics industry calls a semiconductor fabrication plant where devices such as integrated circuits are manufactured. This tour was the first time students under 18 were allowed to visit the clean room areas in the Essex plant.

After the tour of the Fab, students worked together on a design challenge led by Global Foundries engineers. The challenge was less about engineering and more about the skills needed to work in the high-tech industry, or in any industry after high school. These skills, known as transferable skills in our schools, are:

  • Clear and Effective Communication
  • Creative and Practical Problem-Solving
  • Informed and Integrative Thinking
  • Responsible and Involved Citizenship
  • Self Directions Scoring Criteria


Our students then had the good fortune of attending a “science fair” that included engineers from Global Foundries in both VT and NY, as well engineers from other local manufacturing companies. The theme of the event was built on the Global Foundries philosophy that leading-edge manufacturing operations must be both highly efficient and extremely flexible to deliver optimal results. The concepts of providing differentiated manufacturing services rooted in the values of speed, accuracy, and agility were highlighted. Lessons for all of students and schools that change occurs and occurs quickly in the world outside of schools. Preparing our students for this world is essential.


During lunch, BFA students also had the opportunity to meet and speak with young engineers about careers. And they heard a presentation from Vermont Technical College about how they could access VTC programs beginning in high school. FWSU schools have been working hard over the last six years to improve our focus on STEM. We now have STEM programs in all of our elementary schools. This year we launched innovation labs in all of our buildings. FWSU has again been designated an Apple Distinguished Program and we have developed a new partnership with the UVM College of Engineering and Mathematics Sciences.


There are some early signs that our efforts are paying off, but we still have lots of work in front of us. This visit by our students is a continued step in our process to address the skills our students need to be successful after graduation.

“The most important point from the visit is the idea that science is for everyone. We hope kids saw that problems come in all shapes and sizes, but the common theme is solving all of them with the scientific method. We need to make clear that science isn’t just for scientists…it’s for anyone, and the basic pattern of the scientific method can be used on almost any problem. This is basically identical to the process we use to solve all kinds of problems…from the simplest problems of creating efficient manufacturing environments all the way up to the tough ones like moving from an electronic world to a photonic one. I like to summarize it like this…fits on one hand!:

1) Observe Problem
2) Develop Hypothesis
3) Conduct Experiment
4) Analyze Results
5) Take Action”
Jeff Mailing
Process Integration Engineering RF Technology Development Team

Target 4 – Engaged Community Partners  – FWSU staff and students engage in authentic learning opportunities with local, regional, state, and global partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.

Indicators of Success for this Goal – Students pursue interests and opportunities, challenge convention, and make positive contributions in their community, state, and world.

Action Step -Develop global partnerships for innovative learning opportunities.

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