Design Challenge celebrates Manufacturing Month

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October is National Manufacturing Month. The Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP) in Urbana hopes to capitalize on the national month-long celebration with partners in manufacturing and education to showcase and encourage young people to explore career opportunities in the modern era of manufacturing, including holding the second annual Champaign County Design Challenge.

“We are fortunate to have such diversity of manufacturing in Champaign County,” said Marcia Bailey, CEP Director. “We want our young people to understand the career choices that exist in manufacturing and having this opportunity helps them gain first-hand knowledge. We have approximately 3,700 people working in manufacturing in our community and many companies are looking for skilled employees.”

Last year, the CEP, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, Urbana University, and manufacturers from around the area created the inaugural Champaign County Design Challenge. After a successful first year, the design challenge is returning. For the second year in a row, approximately 90 students from Graham, Mechanicsburg, Triad, Urbana, and West Liberty-Salem are participating.

The student teams were challenged to design a mousetrap race car within a series of criteria and constraints under the guidance of an industry mentor. Each school participating can have up to four teams with five students and is open to middle or high school students. For the challenge, the mousetrap car must include five simple machines and four wheels with the goal of the car going 20 feet. The teams cannot purchase or 3D print materials.

The mentors for the teams are Steven Brandeberry from JWP, Zack Zizzo and Stephen Oser from Orbis, Mike Wagner from Navistar, Colin Turcu, Hayden Gephart, and Ethan Hess from KTH, Jeff Helman from Rosewood Machine and Tool, Jacob Schmitt from Ultra-Met, Dan Yohey from Rittal, Tyler Bumbalough from the Urbana City Engineering division, and Steve McCall from Champaign County Engineer.

“The goal of the design challenge is to expose students to local manufacturers, interact with professionals, and use their creativity to complete a project,” said Allison Koch, Ohio Hi-Point Satellite Supervisor. “The groups are being judged on their collaboration and their ability to explain their successes and challenges.”

The teams compete at their school district and the winning team from each school district advance to the county-level competition held at Urbana University on November 1. All participants are invited to listen to the finalists present each team’s design to the judges. During the event, students are also able to participate in a tradeshow with local manufacturers.

“Design thinking happens at the intersection of art and science. Designers direct our lifestyle, create our products, and shape the environments where we live, work, and play,” said Dr. Christopher Washington, Executive Vice President and CEO of Urbana University. “Urbana University is proud to host the Champaign County Design Challenge event for young designers in our region.”

The Champaign County Design Challenge trophy is currently housed at last year’s winning school, Triad High School.

For more information about Manufacturing Month and the opportunities in Champaign County, please visit For more information about manufacturing programs for students, please visit or

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Information courtesy of Ohio Hi-Point and Champaign Economic Partnership.

Information courtesy of Ohio Hi-Point and Champaign Economic Partnership.