Paper Planes Inspiring Better Futures

Pratt & Whitney supplier Polamer Precision recently held an Aviation Day, where a competitive spirit inspired local high school students to consider manufacturing and engineering careers.

Ryan Gersh (Polamer Precision): The event today was really to focus on, you know, we sat back and thought what do we do here as Polamer in manufacturing. We want the kids to be in our role, my role specifically. I'm sales and marketing, you know, what do I do. Well, my job is to solve my customers' problems. And I can do that by really understanding what the problem is. So what we came up with as a program for the kids, we want to keep it aerospace related, was we're going to design paper airplanes. And they're going to be required to carry money, every cent is a person. We had a benchmark plane, which is your typical plane that you fold up, you put in 60 cents, we had two quarters and a dime, we had all the kids measure and get a benchmark, and then we gave them the challenge and an hour to come up with a better design, a better solution.

Ryan Gersh: But it doesn't stop there. Just because you can design a better mousetrap doesn't mean you can sell it and solve the customer's problems. So we had the, the board come in to do the presentation, which was Craig Musson, director at Pratt & Whitney, we had the president of New Britain Board of Education, and we had somebody from Polamer Precision, our director of strategy, and all of the kids got up and not only did they show their performance of what they designed, but they pitched it and told all the reasons why them as an airline manufacturer would love this solution.

Eric Nelson (New Britain High School): STEM is new. But what it all, it's really just the same thing we always did. We did math. We did science. We did, there was an engineering class. But we never actually showed them how they all apply and work together. I mean if you think of a Venn diagram, engineering is kind of right in the middle of using math and science and technology and engineering, just like using all of it. So it's taking all those classes that we always taught, but now you're showing them how it's done. And taking them to a place like this where they can see the manufacturing happen, to me it's the message is opportunity. That's the message that we're trying to deliver to these kids. Going to a place where they can actually talk to real professionals, where they can see real work being done, where we can do a project that simulates exactly what happened here, but not just focus in on one small task, you have to focus on task at hand three times, but teaching the kids to look at the bigger picture.

Ryan Gersh: And so by taking the kids out on the shop floor and showing them some of the technologies and techniques, and showing them that it's clean and efficient and beautiful too at the same time, you know, getting rid of the stigma that aerospace manufacturing is maybe a dirty or older business, and getting them interested in thinking that this could be a possible career path. Polamer Precision was founded just 16 years ago. They had less than a thousand square feet. It's turned into this, which is 152,000 square foot world headquarters in New Britain, and what we try to be for Pratt is the solutions provider.

Eric Nelson: I love Polamer and Pratt meeting up with us. This project, it doesn't work if it's just me. It works because, because the other company's involvement and wanting to help the students as well. You know, to volunteer your time, kids see that other people want to help them, that they're not stuck on this island. It goes a long, long way. I can't even begin to explain, they're going to remember this field trip for the rest of their life. Not because it's folding paper airplanes, but because of everything involved.