Upstate Students Take On High Speeds Behind The Wheel At BMW

June 23, 2011 at 8:54 am
By Madoree Pipkins

Published: Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 3:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 10:24 p.m.

Before last week, Nigel Dodson only practiced switching lanes and car acceleration playing video games.

But this week, Nigel and 28 other rising seniors from Spartanburg- and Greenville-area high schools and home-schoolers took on high speeds behind the wheels of 335i BMWs and toured facilities at the BMW Manufacturing automotive plant in Greer as part of a two-week academic enrichment and leadership camp.

This is a first-year program developed as a partnership between BMW Manufacturing and the George Dean Johnson Jr. College of Business and Economics at the University of South Carolina Upstate.

Starting June 13 and ending Friday, students are given a real world introduction to the manufacturing process and business side of the automotive industry through various hands-on activities and classroom instruction from professional mentors.

A typical camp day includes computerized challenges, physical simulations, case studies and teaching games. Using catapults, kit cars and kit helicopters, Nigel said they test various theories and learn ways to improve functions, processes and results in teams, making the learning environment interesting.

“There are lectures but everything this week has been fun because we aren’t just doing one thing,” he said.

BMW Continuous Improvement Manager, Mark Finley hopes the program’s principles encourage students to pursue further study of math and science.

“They’re principles of math and science and leadership. We want the students to realize and see how information they learn in the classroom is being used in different career choices,” he said.

Finley walked with students on the tour and pointed out the various career opportunities with BMW and other companies that employ those with high studies in science, technology, engineering and math areas. “We have a good group of students. They are the next generation that we are working towards and I hope to be working for them one day,” Finley said.

“It’s a nice experience to get insight about what the working world is,” said 16-year-old George Snyder. After graduating from J.L. Mann High in Greenville, George plans to attend Purdue University and become a chemical engineer.

“Learning now about ways to cut down on waste and statistics is going to help me on my career path,” George said. “It’s good knowing what our instructors think we should learn now.”

Learning Six Sigma principles and statistical process controls surely impact made on J.L. Mann senior, Neil Wolin.

“It makes me want to make my school decisions for a great way to end up working here,” Neil said. “I’d really like to work for a cool place like this.”

Photo: by Mike Bonner