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Popping into first place, Broughal students win state manufacturing video contest

Sahl Communications
Broughal Middle School students won first place at the sixth annual What's So Cool About Manufacturing video contest in Harrisburg this week. The students, seen on screen and on the stage, are joined by Dept. of Economic Development Secretary Rick Siger, left.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Did they do it to butter up the judges, or just leave the competition a little salty?

Regardless, in just two and a half minutes, students from Broughal Middle School popped their way to the top at the sixth annual "What's So Cool About Manufacturing" (WSCM) contest Wednesday in Harrisburg.

WSCM is a video-based educational tool that increases awareness of career paths and technology in manufacturing through peer marketing — "kids telling kids what's so cool about manufacturing jobs," according to a news release.

It requires students to interact with local manufacturers as they gain perspectives about careers and technology, record their experiences and present them in an educational "cool" way via documentary video production.

Coached by teacher Nicholas Laudenslager, the group of six — Fiona Udell, Shilpa Das, Keagen Frendt, Mishon Jackson, Yair Rosario and Rowen Stofko — partnered with Weaver Popcorn Manufacturing to create a video that answered the question, What's So Cool about Manufacturing?

Weaver Popcorn is based in Indiana and was founded in 1928 by Ira E. Weaver, whose family still controls the company. It is one of the largest popcorn companies in the U.S., and has a plant on Brodhead Road in Bethlehem Township.

In their student-narrated video, the Broughal team dressed up as, and interviewed, Weaver Popcorn employees on what they do on the job, why they like working there, and why someone should consider a career in the manufacturing field.

A panel of four judges viewed the 22 entries selected from 11 regional contests across the state. It viewed a total of 155 student videos to select the statewide award recipients.

"The continued success of the What's So Cool program validates its effort to generate excitement toward careers in the manufacturing sector and to promote STEM education and technical training among students and parents," said Karen Buck, Manufacturers Resource Center's director of workforce initiatives.

"We are so excited and proud to celebrate the Best of PA 2024 student teams and highlight their videos."

The contest originated in the Lehigh Valley in 2013 and was developed by Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC).

Since its inception, more than 5 million public votes have been collected during regional dates. More than 60% of the state's school districts have participated in the program.

MRC has an office in Fogelsville and helps small and mid-sized manufacturers become more competitive, efficient and strategically grow and invest more effectively in existing personnel. It's a non-profit partially funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.