The Dearborn Truck Plant supports the future generation of STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. As part of this initiative, the plant partnered with a group of seventh graders at Novi Middle School for last month’s 6-Sigma Master Black Belt Certification course.
The Birdhouse Frogs robotics team were tasked with creating a catapult that employees would utilize during training. This group is part of FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, which is an international youth organization dedicated to fostering STEM. The team is sponsored by Ford with Dave Christensen, Master Black Belt, DTP, and Tim Mwenje, Team Manager, Dearborn Engine, serving as mentors.
“The catapults are used to teach 6-Sigma concepts as they are discussed during the three-week course,” Christensen said. “The instructors will teach concepts and then require certain deliverables that are obtained as a team effort around shooting the catapults which are used as a simulation of a process that might be experienced in manufacturing.”
The high-level objective for the team is to hit a target with a projectile at a specified distance. The distance and target both have specified parameters per customer requirements. During the last day of class, there is a timed competition between teams to see who can score the most points hitting a target that is given by the instructors just before the competition.
Nine DTP employees recently graduated from the course led by Christensen. In order to participate in Black Belt Training, you must successfully complete Green Belt verification.
“Black Belt certification requires a fair amount of time and effort,” Christensen said. “Our engineering positions at Ford are generally the target audience for this program. DTP does have a wide range of employees, both hourly and salary, that have enrolled in the training since this program started in 1999.”
The gifted catapult was well received by the team.
“The students and instructors of this course enjoy having different catapults to see how best to hit their goals,” Christensen said. “The instructors appreciate the catapult gifted to the program so we can have different catapults for our students to work with.”
Green Belt training is the starting point on the 6-Sigma journey. Green Belt teaches the basic tools needed to efficiently problem solve using the DMAIC model - Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.
“Currently we teach four to five Green Belt courses at DTP per year to capture both hourly and salary employees,” Christensen said. “We want our team leaders, process coaches and engineering staff to use this efficient problem-solving strategy to solve problems in their work areas.”
Mwenje, Christensen and Steve Angus, Body Exterior PVT engineer, DTP, were instrumental in coordinating this endeavor with the students. Angus has been mentoring robotics students for six years.
“I took the 6-Sigma Black Belt training this past year and I noticed that the wooden catapults they were using could be improved upon,” Angus said. “I reached out to my eight Novi teams asking if any of them wanted to build a catapult for Ford utilizing aluminum robotics parts.
“The Birdhouse Frog s took up this challenge. They had about six weeks to build the catapult out of aluminum. They worked nights and weekends to pull off this assignment and I was really impressed with what this group of middle school students were able to come up with. They even 3-D printed the ping-pong holder for the catapult.”
As a thank you for their hard work, the Birdhouse Frogs came to DTP in March for a special tour led by Angus, Mwenje and Christensen.
The future of stem and manufacturing are bright. Angus knows it is critical to support and spark this interest at an early age. That is why programs like FIRST are so crucial.
“Programs like these allow students to explore engineering and computer science early in a fun sports-like competition setting,” he said. “Many school districts in our state are now starting to incorporate these programs within the pre-school curriculum.”
Students utilizing the catapult during Black Belt training
Nine employees graduated from the most recent Black Belt program
Tim Mwenje, Sonia Reddy, Aamani Cherukuri, Myles Gedeon and Dave Christensen during the group tour
Steve Angus during the group tour in DTP Final
The Birdhouse Frogs are seventh graders at Novi Middle School
Fostering the future of STEM
DTP partners with middle school students for 6-Sigma Black Belt Training