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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Students get a look into manufacturing principles, careers at Rock West Composites

Jan 13, 2022 11:38AM ● By Julie Slama

Canyons School District high school students toured Rock West Composites where they learned about its manufacturing principles. (Christy Bond/Jordan High)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

What may look like a single layer of fabric may actually be several layers of alternating carbon fiber coated with resin to create a stable, yet pliable composite that is being used in manufacturing for tubing as well as many customized projects.

That may have been what approximately 25 students from high schools in Canyons School District learned as it toured Rock West Composites in West Jordan on National Manufacturing Day.

“They manufacture components made of carbon fiber, which is lighter than aluminum and stronger than steel,” said Christy Bond, Jordan High work-based learning coordinator who escorted the group that toured the facility. “They walked us through the cutting process, the molding process, and showed us the raw materials. Students got hands on to see what carbon fiber is like before the resin is added and then after the resin is added, how it becomes pliable and can turn into something super sturdy.”

Bond said students also learned about thermal stressing where the material runs through “minus 30 to 280 degrees back and forth to stabilize that material, which they sometimes use for calibration of devices.”

While the students learned the company does a lot of stock tubing, they also saw some of the customized items they made.

“One of the cool things they make is a lightweight, portable X-ray machine, that…is able to use on football fields as well as Third World countries. Another cool thing they showed us was called the HANS (head and neck support) device; it’s a head and neck restraint device that’s used in Speedway racing,” Bond said, adding that they also discussed composite being used to manufacture bicycles, drones and other aerospace applications. “One of the kids thought that was really cool that you could use it to create pieces for auto design.”

Students also had the chance to ask what other uses the company manufactures for (materials that are used in marine, energy and scientific purposes amongst others), about their careers as well as how they can prepare for the field.

“The thing they said they like to emphasize is employability skills: how you have to be a hard worker, a good person and willing to learn,” she said, adding that they trained people on-site. “They rotate people through the manufacturing, the purchasing, the office work so that they get a feel for the company.”

While most of Jordan High’s students are taking the manufacturing principles course in the medical innovations pathway, the tour was open to any student who was interested in manufacturing.  

“All the manufacturing principles can be applied into when they eventually make their own medical devices” in the second term of the medical innovations pathway, she said. 

The year-long medical innovations pathway, which is housed at Jordan High, is open to any junior or senior. 

In the one-credit pathway, students who are interested in engineering or biomanufacturing learn the manufacturing process, learn the history of the industry, product development, operational structures and optimization, cost and quality control. The second semester includes a course in biomanufacturing to explore the medical device industry, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulations as they apply to the medical device industry, and careers in the field. 

Students also have the opportunity to have job shadows and internships in biomanufacturing companies. Then, students are guaranteed an interview and if selected to work at the company, they are eligible for tuition assistance for ongoing training, Bond said.

At the successful completion of the program, students receive an industry certificate and are hosted at the state Capitol building by the governor or governor’s representative for an award ceremony. Since the medical innovations pathway began six years ago, about 90 students have completed the program.