Felling Trailers is doing its part to reach younger generations and promote innovation in manufacturing by partnering with schools in Minnesota through the Careers in the Community program, which exposes high school juniors and seniors to welding, office administration and marketing.
As part of that effort, the trailer manufacturer sponsors local robotics teams, including the UC-Botics team from Upsala (MN) High School, which recently went to Felling’s headquarters in Sauk Centre MN to give a demonstration of the robot the team built and competed with earlier this year.
“As a manufacturer, we know how robotic automation can impact production processes,” said Brenda Jennissen, CEO of Felling. “We see firsthand the kinds of job opportunities that those individuals with robotics backgrounds will have as members of the workforce. Supporting these area teams the last several years is one way we can be good stewards in our communities and the future of our industry.”
Felling said it believes supporting innovation in young people is the responsibility of every company, especially those in manufacturing trades, and with many of today’s skilled tradesmen moving toward retirement, it seeks to take a proactive stance toward promoting manufacturing, instead of reactive.
The Careers in the Community program offers welding camps to girls and boys ages 12-18, giving manufacturing tours to high school and college level students, and sponsoring trade-related programs and teams.
“Creativity and innovation have to start somewhere, and at Felling Trailers, we believe it begins with a curious mind and the right opportunities,” the company said. “A mind that looks at a task or a process and wonders how this can be done differently, possibly simplified, or reduce the number of steps or people needed to complete it.
“This approach is the same mindset of our company’s founder, Merle J. Felling, who as a young child made his first trailer from parts of decommissioned equipment to create a rock wagon that would reduce the time and effort to complete the task or clearing a field for planting.”
Today, much of the innovation and progress seen in manufacturing is intertwined with technology and the field of robotics, Felling said, and robotics permeates much of modern life, from cars and smartphones to thermostats.
The UC-Botics team that visited Felling entered the recent FIRST Robotics Competition, where the goal is to accomplish different tasks by partnering with other teams, typically in games that consist of two alliances made up of multiple teams. The games change every season, introducing different concepts of scoring and play.
During their visit, the UC-Botics team explained the process they went through to come up with their robot.
Throughout a six-week period, teams consisting of high school students, coaches and mentors worked together to build a robot. Teams were provided with a standard set of parts, and then they also were allowed a budget and encouraged to buy, make or recycle parts from previous robot builds.
“The opportunity that our area robotics teams provide to the students to work and create together and compete with other teams to solve a common problem in an ever-changing environment, is so valuable,” Jennissen said.
“The ingenuity, creativity and teamwork that programs like this inspire in students is priceless.”