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FlexFactor® Debuts in South Carolina

A guest article by Alan Clayton, Department Chair of Advanced Manufacturing & Skilled Trades, and Spencer Griffin, Associate Director of Admissions and Testing, Midlands Technical College, Columbia, SC

In partnership with NextFlex and Boeing, Midlands Technical College recently implemented a pilot of the FlexFactor program at Westwood High School in Columbia. FlexFactor, the flagship education program created by NextFlex, is designed to make secondary school students aware of the tremendous career possibilities available in the field of Advanced Manufacturing. Boeing sponsored the program in South Carolina to help meet the need for skilled technology workers in manufacturing. Lindsay Leonard, Senior Director of National Strategy and Engagement at Boeing South Carolina said, “To achieve our goals, we need the ideas and energy that come from engaging with the workforce of tomorrow. Our partnership with NextFlex and Midlands Technical College to launch this innovative program is an investment in the community of South Carolina’s future manufacturers and aerospace workers. We are committed to offering experiences that help young people see their future in a STEM career and understand pathways to get there.”

The team at Midlands Technical College, which serves three large counties in South Carolina, is excited to implement this program in the service area to bring awareness to Advanced Manufacturing and skilled trades. This pilot program, the first ever in South Carolina and the on the east coast of the U.S., was conducted in Mr. James Roberts’ Entrepreneurship class at Westwood High School and it was wonderful to see young people engage with technology concepts and be energized by the opportunity to help solve real-world problems through the program’s conceptual design activities.

FlexFactor is a multi-touch program that introduces students to product and business possibilities available through the use of Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE). The students are introduced to the technology and then challenged to brainstorm a product to meet a specific need they see in society. Students are then guided in developing a manufacturing and marketing plan, complete with a slide deck and final pitch presentation.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entirety of the program was presented virtually. Despite the challenges that precipitated remote implementation of FlexFactor, students were able to attend both Industry Day and College Day virtually. Nephron Pharmaceuticals, located in West Columbia, South Carolina, hosted a virtual Industry Day which allowed the students to acquire a behind-the-scenes overview of the products the company produces and how advanced manufacturing is utilized in their facility. During the virtual College Day, students were presented with the opportunities in the School of Advanced Manufacturing and Skilled Trades at Midlands Technical College, a program that offers many career options, from the automotive industry to graphic design production, machine tooling, electronics and much in between.

The program culminated in five different “Shark Tank” final pitch presentations which were judged by representatives from Boeing, the U.S. Department of Defense and Midlands Technical College. Midlands Technical College is very thankful that all parties were able to pivot to a virtual implementation of FlexFactor so that we could support these rock star students during this inaugural pilot of FlexFactor here in South Carolina. We are very excited for future FlexFactor ecosystem implementations!

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