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Northeast students score checkmate with unique chess set

Northeast students score checkmate with unique chess set

NORFOLK, NE – The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it. The words of American Statesman Benjamin Franklin may have been uttered over 200-years ago, but they are just as relevant today to a group of students at Northeast Community College.

The students in the diversified manufacturing program have used their minds and skillsets to develop a stylish version of the classic board game and have turned it into a fundraiser. On Wednesday, the students and their instructor, Steve Wagner, delivered a polished set to one customer, the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce.   

Wagner said the concept of the chess set was developed two-years ago.

“In the fall of 2016, we held our Manufacturing Day open house and we thought we needed some kind of giveaway. So, we thought, let’s make this (the rook piece)…this is cute and easy. So, we made that, and they went over like gang busters. Everyone thought that they were great!”

Wagner said a high school student in the College’s Fridays@Northeast program took one of the rooks home from the 2016 event to show to his mother.

“He held it up to her and said, ‘I want to do this.’”

As time went on, Wagner said more and more people inquired about the piece.

“Colleagues and administrators would ask, ‘Well, when are you going to make the rest of the set?’ I thought, ‘Ok, we can do that.’”

Wagner spent the summer of 2017 writing programs and designing pieces to have them produced on the diversified manufacturing program’s CNC (computer numerical control) equipment.

This past fall, the Hawks Manufacturing Club became involved in the project and sold six chess sets. Proceeds go towards a scholarship for a student studying diversified manufacturing, while other funds go to support the students on field trips and visits to manufacturing facilities where they learn more about industry.

“(The chess sets) serve as a good experience for them to understand what it takes to make a business work because they had to come up with pricing on this,” Wagner said.

“They had to look at items such as cycle time. How long is it going to take us to produce this? What are additional processes? What does our material cost?”         

There are a variety of materials at play with different grades of aluminum incorporated into each piece. A black anodized coating is placed on one side, but not the other. In addition, one side requires a specific grade of aluminum for the anodization, while the other does not.                

Much discussion went into crafting the 64-square board. Wagner said they were originally considering wood, but ultimately went with acrylic.

“It required machining to precisely make sure they (each square) all fit.”

Lynnette Frey, Northeast drafting instructor, had her students assist by producing drawings, and then used a 3-D printer to create a mockup of the board frames.

Wagner said, “That was really awesome to be able to have that partnership, and we really appreciate their help and involvement.”

A Norfolk engraving shop personalized each of the board’s frames.

Student Brendan Martinsen, of Columbus, said they appreciate what Brittnay Dawson, the Chamber’s talent recruitment director, and the Chamber have done for the program.

“We would like to thank Brittnay for everything she has done for us and thank the Chamber for everything they have done for us…. making a video and trying to get the word out (for the Applied Technology Division’s Manufacturing Day event.) For our Manufacturing Day, we had more people show up last year, so it’s a good start.”  

Wagner said he hopes the project gives his students a better understanding of the scope and complexity of manufacturing processes. He said they had to determine cost, cost analysis, and consider profit and loss.

“There are so many facets that you need to look at. We had involvement in everything from finance to sales to purchasing and procurement to programming to assembly processes to final assembly. I think that really exemplifies what this program is all about. Regardless of what you want to get into, if you understand the basics of what constitutes manufacturing, there are so many paths in the manufacturing field. We have a place for you.”

Wagner said a manufacturing skills gap is creating an employment hole. He said there is concern about young people engaging in manufacturing education, and why it does or does not take place.

“It’s really pretty incredible. When we see this happen, and then the students start to connect all the dots, then they realize there’s a lot of manufacturing going into everything. Think about a space shuttle, or a car, or a bicycle. They’re incredibly complex. Everything that we touch, eat, use has gone through a manufacturing process.”

Wagner put it into perspective for his students this way.

“Only about 20-percent of the population really understands that things have to be made, not just bought off the shelf. Only 10-percent of that population understands those processes, and only a small portion of that 10-percent percent have actually done that process. So they’re part of an elite group that really gets it.

In addition to Martinsen, other Northeast students who worked on the chess sets and boards are Kyle Gierhan, Utica, Gage Herian-Orr, Norfolk, Jared Reed, Battle Creek, and Jadon Wagner, Winside.

Wagner said if members of the fall 2018 Hawks Manufacturing Club decide to do hold a chess set fundraiser again, more sets will be available for order.