Digital fabrication camp builds skills for middle schoolers in Columbia County

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The camp promised that the 26 middle schoolers attending would be their own bosses.

And, boy, it delivered.

The Columbia County students created fictitious micro-businesses for the week-long iDesign Workshop. Held at a former auto shop behind Scappoose High School, Portland Community College faculty showed students how to design and print custom decals, etched glass, pop-up cards and charms that showcased their company’s logo. They learned how to use computer-controlled Silhouette Portrait vinyl cutters, donated by Qorvo Semiconductor through the PCC Foundation, to make their “swag,” which they were able to keep when the camp concluded.

Matthew Kreins of Scappoose was one of those middle schoolers who got a vinyl cutter and valuable experience creating dog tags and medals.

“These machines help people make things that they once had to make by hand,” Keins marveled.

The immersive summer workshop took students who had no experience with graphic design or computer-assisted design programs, and taught them from the ground up.

Held at a former auto shop behind Scappoose High School, Portland Community College faculty showed students how to design and print custom decals, etched glass, pop-up cards and charms that showcased their company’s logo

Held at a former auto shop behind Scappoose High School, Portland Community College faculty showed students how to design and print custom decals, etched glass, pop-up cards and charms that showcased their company’s logo.

“This is not just about teaching students how to use certain programs and technologies, but to also expose them to potential career possibilities at a young age,” said camp organizer Gregg Meyer, who was just wrapping up his one-year assignment as the Oregon Manufacturing and Innovation Center training program director. “We want these kids to think about PCC. And, this camp segues to our OMIC training and community outreach.”

Meyer scored a two-year $176,000 Oregon Department of Education grant to establish digital fabrication camps as part of the partnership’s outreach strategy. The camps promote career technical education learning opportunities in the greater Portland area including Multnomah, Washington and Columbia Counties. OMIC training, led by PCC, is the instructional arm of the OMIC Enterprise, a consortium of industry, government and higher education, whose mission is to develop new tools, technologies and processes to overcome the region’s most critical manufacturing challenges.

The idea is to train Columbia County workers, and college and high school students, in careers related to metals, machinery and manufacturing. Another part of OMIC Training’s charge is to connect with local schools and workforce agencies, to provide career development and technical skills training in the advanced manufacturing sector.

The OMIC Training Accelerator at the former high school auto shop will soon be overhauled with freshly painted walls, high-speed internet and heavy load electrical outlets for additional machines. This coming year, the revamped training space will serve two purposes: provide pre-OMIC coursework for high school students in advanced manufacturing, and apprenticeship courses for adults in the evening.

“The Scappoose School District has been phenomenal,” Meyer said.

But for a week in August it was all about the middle schoolers and incoming high school freshmen. Kourtney Bays of Scappoose High School was so excited to be part of the first iDesign event, she’s going to tell everyone she knows about it.

“I didn’t even know this was possible,” Bays said. “You download designs from the Internet, modify them, and cut them out on the machine. I will definitely recommend this camp to my friends.”

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About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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