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In a world where social media dominates the attention of young people, it can be hard for teachers and parents to find ways to engage kids in meaningful projects. Fortunately, there is a program that does just that: What’s So Cool About Manufacturing
What’s So Cool About Manufacturing (WSCM) is a video contest that connects middle school students with local manufacturers. The students visit the manufacturers’ facilities, interview employees, and learn about the products being made. Then, they create short videos that showcase what they learned and highlight what is so cool about the industry. 

The program was created in 2013 by the Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC) in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Since then, it has expanded to include more than a dozen states across the US. It has also gained recognition and support from industry leaders, educational institutions, and government agencies. 

Originally, a grant in 2013 from the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development’s “Discovered in PA, Developed in PA” program provided the startup funds for the contests. MRC’s project was called Lehigh Valley Skill-Up. MRC provides a multitude of support, mentorship, funding assistance, and certifications to assist small to medium-sized manufacturing companies in strategic growth, overcoming economic barriers, and implementing long-term solutions for evolution.

Hammer Marketing Steps In

As a long-term partner of WSCM, Hammer Marketing collaborated with MRC to rejuvenate their previous What’s So Cool website. Senior Designer, Kyle Huntzinger, took on the first set of tasks; conducting a series of stakeholder interviews to get a better understanding of the pain points of the current website, as well as the wants and needs for the new website.

Following the stakeholder interview, Kyle worked up wireframes of the most important pages that laid out a solid foundation for the design work that followed. Kyle then developed and implemented aesthetics that are relevant to the site’s subject matter including: 

  • Ripped paper texture elements paired with doodle-like icons reference a school-aged child’s notebook 
  • Layered, off-kilter imagery and other elements throughout the site are a nod to photos and papers in a folder or hanging in a locker 
  • The bright and playful color palette of WSC is cohesively used throughout the site 

Not only does the new site look great, but additional enhancements were made to ensure a smoother user experience: 

  • Revamped homepage with easily changeable, more relevant content for users 
  • Restructured contest pages for a better user-experience when it comes to the voting process 
  • Easier navigation to bring users to the important information they’re looking for 

Improvements & Add Ons

Now that the aesthetic was established, Kyle passed the ball to Senior Developer Lee Gustin and he started to dive under the hood. Lee was able to keep the most essential voting functionality, iterate on it, and incorporate our modern base theme. He then set his sights on the voting pages which are the proverbial bread and butter of the website. 

fun image with text of what's so cool

WSCM’s goal was to modernize the front and back-end user experience, site navigation, and mobile friendliness. Additionally, as the program grew statewide, the site needed to be able to handle the increased load, traffic, and possible surges during voting. Lee focused on creating a design that made the voting experience more responsive, consistent, and reliable.

So, what’s so cool about What’s So Cool? 

It connects students with their communities.
Many kids do not know what happens behind the scenes of the products they use every day. WSCM gives them an opportunity to learn about the businesses in their own backyards and see the impact those businesses have on the local economy. 
It exposes kids to career possibilities. 
By learning about manufacturing, students may discover a career path they had not considered previously. They may also see how skills they are learning in school can be applied in the workforce. 
It promotes teamwork and creativity. 
Creating a video requires collaboration and creativity. Students must work together to develop a concept, film footage, and edit the final product. They also have the opportunity to use technology and develop their media skills. 
It celebrates manufacturing. 
Manufacturing often gets a bad rap in the media, with reports of job losses and factory closures. WSCM puts a positive spin on the industry and highlights the innovative products and people who make it thrive. 
It’s fun! 
Let’s face it, learning can be boring. WSCM injects some fun into the educational process by giving students a chance to explore, create, and share their work with others.

MRC, the founders of the contest, is rooted in creating growth opportunities for manufacturers. Creating an exciting platform for kids to interact with an industry they may not have access to in a daily capacity furthers that commitment to creating sustained growth.

We Got Involved, You Should Too 

Recently, What’s So Cool About Manufacturing held its 10th Annual Awards Ceremony at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, PA. As the official website sponsor of the event, we were lucky enough to be in the audience. Thirty-three middle schools and multiple manufacturers from Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, and Northampton counties participated. Witnessing the excitement of all the students and parents involved gave us a special kind of pride to be involved in this project.

what's so cool awards ceremony

If you’re a teacher, parent, or student who is interested in participating in What’s So Cool About Manufacturing, visit their website at https://whatssocool.org/ to find out if the program is available in your area. And, if you are an industry leader, consider getting involved by sponsoring a contest or mentoring a student team. Who knows – you may inspire the next generation of manufacturers! 

Learn more about our team and our work. Our next successful project could be yours!