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Plant teaches engineering skills

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Southern Nash Middle School eighth-graders Carla New, 14, left, and Layla Herndon, 13, look at an assembly diagram as they build LEGO replicas of valve covers on Friday during the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant LEGO Engine Build at the plant in Whitakers.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Saturday, April 6, 2019

A group of Southern Nash Middle School students got the chance Friday to enter the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant for the first time.

Nolan Bailey, 14, called the place "quite large" and noted, "There's a lot of stuff going on."

Bailey and students from throughout the Twin Counties this week were using interlocking LEGO toy building blocks to help construct a replica of a Cummins high-horsepower engine.

The Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant, located off U.S. 301 southwest of Whitakers, designs and manufactures large engines for use on or off the road.

What the students were doing this week is part of a yearly Science, Technology, Engineering and Math initiative started at the Cummins plant and also part of a young engineers club supported by the plant.

The purpose is to give young schoolchildren a glimpse inside the plant and give them a chance to obtain a better understanding of why STEM is important. Approximately 80 students were estimated to have come to the plant.

Of the experience Friday in using LEGOs to make the replica engine, Southern Nash Middle student Bailey said, "It's actually pretty fun."

"It's kind of challenging but it's very simple to understand once we get going," he said.

As for having a part in building the replica engine, he said, "It's pretty cool to think about, honestly."

Other Southern Nash Middle School students Friday were impressed with the plant, which started production in 1983 and which is approximately 1.2 million square feet in size.

"It's very big and it's kind of fun," said Logan Saunders, 13. "I never really dealt with engines before. And it's kind of fun to, like, see how they all come together and all work together to like, make different things work."

As for whether he would like to work in the plant someday, he said, "My dad has always been into engines but I'm kind of more like a sports guy, athlete." He plays basketball and football and also is a cross-country runner.

Korrina Jamieson, 13, said of the plant, "It looks very busy."

Jamieson, however, said she does not have any interest in engineering.

She has been dancing for 11 years and is interested in theater and dance as a career.

At the same time, she said she enjoyed participating in the LEGO event and called what she did "super-fun."

Keonte Green, 14, said he would not have a problem working at the plant someday.

"These people are cool," Green said of the employees. "I like working in a friendly environment space."

On Friday, 19 Southern Nash Middle School students were inside the plant.

They were brought by Lesley Murray, 24, a graduate of Nash Central High School and N.C. State University.

Murray teaches a STEM elective class on the Southern Nash Middle campus.

Of the students Murray brought with her to the plant Friday, she said, "I try to pick students that have never been before."

She said she believes some of the students have never experienced even going out of Spring Hope.

"I think it's a really cool experience that they can come and visit a plant like this," she said.

Matt Brown, 57, a work-based learning coordinator for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, said he believes what was going on this week gave the students much career awareness.

"They interact with the engineers and the employees here at the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant. They get to ask them questions," he said. "So it really makes them aware of a lot possibilities and career options that await them in the future." 

And four of his students are interning at the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant.

"It's a great place to work — very clean," he said. "The atmosphere is great."

Cummins, which is based in Columbus, Indiana, is celebrating 100 years of being in business.

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