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Boy Scouts from Troop 123 in New Boston take a lesson in very basic composites manufacturing from instructor Bret Blanchard at Great Bay Community College's Advanced Technology & Academic Center in Rochester. (AMPed NH)

Trip to college' advanced manufacturing center opens Boy Scouts' eyes to career possibilities


Among the activities for which Jeremiah Cullen has earned a Boy Scout merit badge are swimming, archery, and pulp-and-paper.

If Cullen's father has his way, Jeremiah soon will be eligible for a new badge: in advanced manufacturing.

As the career coordinator in the Center for Career & Technical Education at Derry's Pinkerton Academy and assistant Scout master for New Boston-based Daniel Webster Council Troop 123, Doug Cullen knows the value of introducing Scouts and other students to the career possibilities offered in modern manufacturing.

With that in mind, the elder Cullen recently arranged for Troop 123 to tour the high-tech training labs at Manchester Community College and Great Bay Community College's Advanced Technology & Academic Center in Rochester, where the Scouts received crash courses in robotics and automation, as well as in advanced composites manufacturing.

"I really liked it," Jeremiah Cullen, an eighth-grader at Goffstown's Mountain View Middle School, said of the troop's visit to the Rochester campus. "I went to camp there last summer, so I'd had a look-over at how some of the robots interact, but this was more hands-on. I got to use a laser engraver on some dog tags and learned how to use a SolidWorks 3-D computer program to design a camera. It was really cool."

For troop member Jack Lazott, a sophomore at Goffstown Area High School, the trip blew away preconceived notions of what a manufacturing operation looks like.

"It really was an eye-opening experience," he said. "I was amazed by the things you can do by pressing a few buttons."

Lazott said a trip to the Great Bay CC center would benefit students uncertain about what kind of education or career to pursue after high school - which is exactly what his assistant Scout master had in mind.

"I'm dedicated to assisting students identify careers that are most tightly aligned to their interests, then connecting those students with real-world experiences supporting those interests," Doug Cullen said. "This opportunity for Troop 123 at the advanced-manufacturing facilities was a continuation of that effort, with the incredible bonus of being associated to modern laboratories that train students to secure high-wage, high-skill occupations."

Newer technologies form the backbone the Community College System of New Hampshire's more than two dozen advanced manufacturing training and education programs.

According to a CCSNH release, the programs - which range in duration from two weeks to two years - are offered in a variety of formats that have two things in common: They're developed with direct input from New Hampshire advanced manufacturers to ensure they provide high-tech skills necessary for career success; and students receive hands-on training on the same equipment used in cutting-edge production facilities.

Those technologies include: CAD/CAM software and 3-D virtual learning equipment, robotic arms, 3-D printers, three- to five-axis computer-numerical controlled machines, 3-D carbon fiber weaving looms, coordinate-measuring machines and more.

The labs at all seven community colleges were opened or updated with funds from a $20 million federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant aimed at closing the high-tech skills gap identified by advanced manufacturers and increasing the technically skilled workforce in New Hampshire.

"Students and scouts experiencing advanced-manufacturing training through the Community College Systems' TAACCCT grant facilities are receiving a remarkable opportunity to explore the education they need to seek out highly valued jobs post-college," Doug Cullen said.

"It's a great journey with an even better reward at the end, and I wish many more Scout troops, middle schools and high schools in New Hampshire explored these programs."

He also hopes the Scouts will see fit to add advanced manufacturing to their available badges. His son does, too.

"I really like the idea," Jeremiah Cullen said. "The more information kids have about the different types of jobs that are out there, the more they're allowed to learn about what kinds of education programs there are, the better idea they'll have of what to do for a career."

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